Facebook Looking to Become a Better Illness Support Network

Facebook is reportedly in talks with health-care companies to track and manage medical records on the network.

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Facebook is the industry leader for social, and as such, it’s an industry leader for a lot of other enterprises that revolve around social networks. Now, according to Reuters, Facebook is interested in bringing its substantial might to the field of health care.

“The company is exploring creating online ‘support communities’ that would connect Facebook users suffering from various ailments. A small team is also considering new ‘preventative care’ applications that would help people improve their lifestyles,” Reuters states, citing anonymous sources.

The post also mentions that Facebook has been allegedly holding meetings with health-care professionals, and is in the ‘idea-gathering’ stage of this endeavor. Keep in mind that this is a rumor, and how ‘sources familiar with the matter’ are not always correct.

Tying your Facebook profile to your real identity and your real medical information isn’t a particularly new idea. Quartz contributor Melissa McCormack has written about how we’d all be better off with our health records on Facebook.

McCormack’s ideas seem pretty solid: a centralized set of medical records controlled by each user, the ability to grant permissions for viewing and editing to multiple doctors, and maybe even health-specific “status updates” to the medical records for tracking changes to medications and symptoms.

This isn’t necessarily the angle Facebook is pursuing, according to Reuters, but intertwining health and social networking is a distinct possibility. This could be cause for concern, since Facebook doesn’t have a great track record in terms of being ethical or protecting user information.

“People would need anonymity and an assurance that their data and comments wouldn’t be shared with their online contacts, advertisers, or pharmaceutical companies,” Frank Williams, chief executive of Evolent Health, told Reuters.

Then again in the past, Facebook has accidentally leaked shadow profile information collected on users without their permission or knowledge. If the rumors are true, Facebook will just be offering users a better way to do something that they’re already doing: using the network as an illness support network.