- A Reuters exclusive has revealed that social media giant Facebook is considering a move into the healthcare industry, according to three anonymous sources associated with the development.
- According to the sources, Facebook is considering "support communities" connecting users with different chronic conditions; and "preventative care" applications that would assist in individuals' wellness efforts.
- The company is currently gathering ideas and setting up meetings with healthcare industry experts and entrepreneurs, as well as developing a R&D arm to test applications, according to Reuters.
While it's obviously early days for Facebook and healthcare, this isn't a shocking move. The industry at large is looking at ways to capitalize on wellness efforts, with employers and insurers alike creating incentives for lifestyle tracking and improvement. Google, Apple and other major tech companies are either considering a move into healthcare or are already here (Apple's HealthKit was released last week). A company with the breadth of data that Facebook has available to it isn't going to sit out of the game for long.
Worth thinking about, however, is the privacy issue. Without substantive infrastructure changes, it seems unlikely that Facebook will be able to handle HIPAA-protected data, suggesting that its primary product will be wellness products like Nike Fuel and Jawbone's Up! app. This opens it up to some of the same concerns that face HealthKit vis-a-vis longevity. Wellness programs don't have a great track record for actually improving consumer health; At minimum, it can take years before a wellness program appreciably improves population health. If Facebook's healthcare initiative turns out to be just a wellness app, while it may have a big impact in the realm of social media, it's unlikely to be a game-changer in the healthcare industry.