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Posted on 11.25.2014

Facebook and Healthcare?

Reuter’s recently reported that Facebook is exploring online “support communities” centered around healthcare. These may take the shape of online forums for people who share a particular ailment or applications that would help people improve their lifestyle, the article notes.

For a company that strikes privacy concerns deep in my heart, this is an interesting prospect. Of course, no one is making me—or you—use Facebook. So the power is still in our hands. Nonetheless, here are three tips for Facebook regarding it’s possible foray into healthcare.

1. If you do it, please be transparent about it. Reuter’s notes Facebook is considering a quiet launch of its first health application, perhaps offering it under a different name. A soft launch isn’t a bad idea in many circumstances, from new apps to new restaurants, but cloaking the organization’s identity is something else again. Will that increase the confidence of the public in Facebook? I don’t think so. Be upfront, and clearly address the concerns you anticipate users may have to instill confidence.

2. Stop doing creepy things. This summer it came to light that Facebook conducted an “emotional contagion experiment” in 2012 involving almost 700,000 users to see if their emotions could be manipulated. Facebook said users consented to being unknowing participants when they agree to Facebook’s terms of service. But further investigation found Facebook didn’t add “research” to its terms agreement until months after the experiment concluded. Cut it out, Facebook.

3. Focus on ways to be a force for good. Facebook points to the success its 2012 organ donor status initiative, which allows users to register as organ donors and share their donation status on their profile pages. The American Journal of Transplantation reported that on the first day alone, that resulted in an increase of 21 times the daily average of registrations. That’s pretty cool, Facebook. Do more things like that, please.

Whatever Facebook decides, its users share personal details about their lives—including their health—every day. But for Facebook to make a business decision to get into healthcare successful, it should continue to address perceptions of trust and privacy. What could Facebook do to better earn your trust?


Dana Coleman is a Vice President at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Dana’s blogs here. Connect with Dana at Dana@lovell.com or @lovelldc

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