REPORT: Facebook Exploring Health Care Entry

Blue Cross Blue Shield, meet blue thumbs up? According to a report by Reuters, Facebook is eyeing opportunities in the health-care sector, including online communities and applications.

PlayingDoctor650Blue Cross Blue Shield, meet blue thumbs up? According to a report by Reuters, Facebook is eyeing opportunities in the health-care sector, including online communities and applications.

Three people familiar with the social network’s plans told Reuters Facebook is considering the creation of online support communities to connect users suffering from similar ailments, as well as “preventative care” apps to help users improve their lifestyle choices.

Everything is still in the idea stage, the sources told Reuters, but Facebook has met with medical-industry experts and entrepreneurs, and the social network also established a research-and-development unit to test potential apps.

A “former Facebook insider” told Reuters that the social network’s product teams often discovered users with chronic ailments such as diabetes seeking advice via Facebook.

Reuters pointed out that pharmaceutical companies are not permitted to advertise prescription drugs on Facebook, limiting targeted advertising opportunities.

But how will a company that has come under fire for its privacy policies regarding much less sensitive information be able to assure users that their medical information is safe?

Frank Williams, CEO of health software and services company Evolent Health, told Reuters Facebook’s real-name policy may prove to be the biggest obstacle, suggesting that users would prefer anonymity and want to be assured that their information and comments would not be shared with friends, advertisers or pharmaceutical companies. Williams added:

I could see Facebook doing well with applications for lifestyle and wellness, but really sick patients with conditions like cancer aren’t fooling around.

Readers: Would you trust Facebook communities or apps with your health information?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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