Facebook Preparing to Step Into Healthcare Market

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg f8Facebook is set to follow Apple and Google into the digital healthcare market, with support communities and applications on the horizon.

According to a report by Reuters, who cited three people familiar with the matter, the company is exploring creating online communities that aim to connect Facebook users who suffer from various ailments and long-term health issues, and is also looking into creating “preventative care” applications designed to improve peoples health and lifestyles.

The social network has been meeting with medical industry experts and entrepreneurs, and plans to set up a research and development unit to test any new health apps, although the entire initiative is still in the “idea-gathering stage”.

The plans were given a boost by the unexpected success of Facebook introducing organ donor status onto US profiles in 2012, with the option of registering online through Facebook. On the day it was introduced, organ donor registrations were 21 times higher than usual, with over 130,000 people signing up.

However, privacy may be a large roadblock to Facebooks plan, with the company having faced criticism over the years of its handling of user data, particularly when it was recently revealed it manipulated user Newsfeeds as part of a psychological experiment. One source familiar with the health plans suggested that Facebook may roll out its health initiative under a separate name, in order to reduce the association.