Facebook confirms asking top hospitals for patient data
- Facebook had asked top hospitals to share anonymized patient data, including information on illnesses and prescriptions, CNBC reported.
- The social media giant planned to use the data to help "several major U.S. hospitals," which were not named, identify patients who may need care.
- The effort never passed the planning phase, a Facebook spokesperson told the network, adding the company didn't receive or analyze such data. Patient consent was not discussed in the early talks, according to the report.
Facebook's musings into healthcare may be inevitable as Amazon, Apple and Google have all stepped up to explore the space. While Facebook's patient data program may be put on ice for now, the company has a lot of data on individuals and could reboot the effort.
But while Amazon, for example, is trusted by consumers, but that can't be said for Facebook at this time.
And yet, trust of medical data isn't just Facebook's beast of burden. All technology companies looking to make plays in the space will have to act in good faith for the health of their users.
The reveal comes as Facebook finds itself in hot water over allegations of political researchers users' data without consent, potentially impacting the 2016 election.
Patient-generated data is becoming a more important as providers eye upstream care management, but data security will be critical for companies to maintain public trust.
Healthcare companies, particularly insurers, are pushing to move patients to lower levels of acuity settings, including urgent care and primary care clinics. More emphasis is being given to so-called social determinants of health, primarily access to food, care services and housing, as these factors are known to impact a person's health.
For example, a recent Health Affairs study found meal delivery programs were associated with lower inpatient admissions and medical spending.
As preventative care moves upstream and away from hospitals, technology companies see an opening into the $3 trillion healthcare market. Companies from Lyft to Uber and Apple have all announced healthcare platforms this year.
Amazon, J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway also announced they formed a healthcare company in an effort to take greater control over costs and their employees' health.
Little information has been released on the project but the bank's CEO Jamie Dimon said in his annual letter this week the company would use "Big Data, virtual technology, better customer engagement and the improved creation of customer choice."
Data are a big deal in the new healthcare landscape.
"For the first time, (digital) diagnosis of disease was the most-funded value proposition among digital health companies," Rock Health found in its Q1 digital health funding report. "[W]e continue to see digital health startups both tackling the clinical aspects of care (diagnosis of disease, monitoring of disease) and reducing friction between patients and the healthcare system (health benefits administration, on-demand healthcare services)."
Other companies such as Omada Health, Virta Health and Vida Health all specialize in accumulating patient data for specific chronic conditions, highlighting a rising of digital therapeutics brands and products.
Whether its a startup or a mature technology company, new entrants have their sights set on healthcare and many are betting on data. To that end, it's important the data are handled responsively, under HIPAA as well as patient's consent.
Follow Jeff Byers on Twitter