Reuters reports that Facebook is soon planning to enter the healthcare field, following in the footsteps of Apple and Google by developing health tracking and monitoring platforms and apps. Three sources familiar with the company's plans said Facebook had been holding meetings with medical professionals, and is setting up a new department to test health apps and services.
The company's healthcare plans are still in development, but one team is reportedly looking into the creation of "preventative care" apps designed to help people live healthier lives. Another group has started to explore the creation of online "support communities" that connect Facebook users suffering from the same conditions. The latter idea was partially inspired by the company's product teams, who observed Facebook users with chronic illnesses searching the site for advice and others suffering similar ailments.
Sick people already use Facebook to find advice and information
Mark Zuckerberg's company has had success with health-focused initiatives in the past — an organ donation feature inspired by Steve Jobs was popular among users — and he and his wife, pediatric doctor Priscilla Chan, donated $5 million to a health center in Facebook's hometown of Palo Alto. But despite this involvement, the apps and services the company produces may not be branded with the Facebook name. Reuters says Facebook is thinking about releasing its first application "quietly" and under a different moniker to reduce privacy concerns from users who might feel their medical data could be stolen or shared with acquaintances.
Facebook has recently made some efforts to respond to criticism about its approach to user privacy. In the same week that it apologized for conducting psychological experiments on its users by manipulating their newsfeeds, Facebook relaxed a rule that had previously demanded people use their real name on the network, a move that Reuters says could pave the way for people to use aliases when discussing their health online.