Facebook sets its sights on healthcare industry

Following in the footsteps of tech companies like Apple and Google, Facebook has set its sights on healthcare.

The social media giant is exploring developing communities online where Facebook users could offer each other support when dealing with health issues, according to a Reuters article that cites comments from three people familiar with the matter. The sources requested anonymity because plans are still in development, according to Reuters.

In addition to the "support communities," Facebook wants to create preventive care apps that can help people improve their lifestyles. The company has met with health industry experts and entrepreneurs to discuss the plans, according to the article.

The healthcare field is already crowded with tech companies. After some setbacks with HealthKit, Apple's health platform is available for use and its partnership with the Mayo Clinic is underway. The company also teamed up with electronic health record vendors Cerner and athenahealth as well as Standford and Duke universities.

Google also has a Google Fit health platform in the works that will aggregate data from fitness-tracking devices and health-related apps.

Facebook is not a total stranger to health initiatives. In 2012 the company created a "Health and Wellness" section allowing users to list whether they are organ donors. In a study published about a year after the release of the program, researchers found that the initiative boosted the number of people who registered as donors 21-fold in a single day.

However, Facebook recently faced much criticism over its privacy policies, which could be a setback in entering an industry where privacy and security is a top concern. Possibly to distance itself from that recent flak, the company may roll out its first health application quietly and under a different name, according to Reuters.

Facebook declined to comment on its healthcare plans, according to the article. 

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article