A report out of Reuters today says that Facebook is in the process of getting into the healthcare market in the near future. The information comes from “three people familiar with the matter,” who say that the initiative will introduce “support communities” to help bring people with similar health issues together if they like.
Additionally, another facet of Facebook’s plans include the introduction of “preventative care” applications to help users “improve their lifestyles.” What form that might take remains to be seen. Unlike tech rivals like Google and Apple, who each have apps associated with wearable devices that can measure users’ biometric data, Facebook has remained squarely in the software space. However, it’s entirely possible that Facebook could be developing software that can integrate with wearable devices in much the same way, and then aggregate that data onto the social networking service. After that, there are any number of interesting ways it could go.
Moreover, it’s actually kind of surprising this hasn’t happened sooner considering how much information users tend to volunteer on Facebook. The report offers one example as proof that the healthcare initiative will make great strides, citing the “organ-donor status initiative” from 2012 that unexpectedly spurred 13,054 people to sign up once Facebook made doing so a shareable status. That was “a 21 fold increase over the daily average of 616 registrations.”
While many cite concerns over privacy regarding how Facebook operates, there’s no question that the site is already an outlet for those looking for support. Personally speaking, I have more than a few friends who’ve shared serious health issues or situations with their contacts, and it seems to do them a world of good to get support back, even if it’s only in the form of well wishes. Others, however, have had friends spontaneously set up funds to help them through troubled times or financial difficulties associated with unexpected health issues – and all of that without Facebook’s official support. Imagine what could happen if users can use Facebook in an official capacity to find that kind of support and help.
On the flip side, Facebook’s main goal here is to collect and monetize your information. If you belong to a cancer support group through this initiative, the advertisements you start to see might be suddenly related to goods and services that can help alleviate your ailment. Where things can go from there is anybody’s guess, but the important thing to remember is this: if you’re okay with people knowing about you, then Facebook will hook you up. If you like your privacy, well, private, then it doesn’t matter what services they come up with – Facebook just isn’t for you.