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Facebook Makes Its Healthcare Debut

The social media giant is developing products and partnerships aimed at connecting people with healthcare resources, starting with a new Preventive Health tool for U.S. consumers.

Facebook is working with U.S. health organizations to offer a tool that connects people to health resources and checkup reminders. People can use this new tool to find affordable places to receive care, set reminders to schedule tests, mark when tests are completed, and more.

Facebook

Cristin Moran, CEO of Growth Science, said it best last week at MD&M Minneapolis when she said almost every industry is interested in healthcare. We've already seen Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google make power moves in healthcare, so it should come as no surprise that Facebook has now made its healthcare debut.

The social media giant announced this week that it is developing products and partnerships aimed at connecting people with healthcare resources, starting with a new Preventive Health tool for U.S. consumers.

Facebook said it is working with U.S. health organizations to offer the new tool, which is designed to connect U.S. consumers to health resources and provide checkup reminders. The company said its initial focus is on heart disease and cancer, as well as the flu. The resources available in the tool are provided by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American Heart Association (AHA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women around the world and in many cases, it is 100% preventable," said Richard Kovacs, MD, president of the ACC. "By incorporating prevention reminders into platforms people are accessing every day, we’re giving people the tools they need to be proactive about their heart health.”

Here's How Facebook's Preventive Health Tool Works

In the United States, people can search for Preventive Health in the Facebook mobile app and find out which checkups, such as cholesterol tests or mammograms, are recommended based on the age and sex they provide. Reminders for flu shots will also appear at the appropriate time of year. 

The tool allows people to mark when tests are completed, set reminders to schedule future tests and tell loved ones about the tool to increase awareness of preventive care. People can also learn more about each checkup and find affordable places to receive care.

And so far, healthcare organizations seem to be on board with the idea of the social media platform's involvement in the industry. 

“We’ve contributed our content and resources to the Facebook Preventive Health tool to empower Americans to take the first step to know about and take action to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, each of which has been shown to increase the chance of a longer, healthier life and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke," said Eduardo Sanchez, MD, chief medical officer for prevention at the AHA.

Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society, said that one of the main reasons people don’t get screened for cancer is that they don’t realize their own risk. "We hope this program will help by building awareness about important recommendations from expert organizations," he said.

Most of the preventive measures recommended by the health organizations Facebook is working with, such as blood pressure tests, are free of charge with insurance coverage, but the company acknowledged that many people do not have insurance. To help people get affordable care, Preventive Health offers a way to find Federally Qualified Health Centers near them. These centers are located in underserved areas and provide care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

People can also use Preventive Health to find convenient locations that offer flu shots, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and urgent care clinics.

“Flu vaccines can have wide-ranging benefits beyond just preventing the disease, such as reducing the risk of hospitalization, preventing serious medical events for some people with chronic diseases, and protecting women during and after pregnancy. New tools like this will empower users with instant access to information and resources they need to become a flu fighter in their own communities," said Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC.

Facebook said it plans to work with additional organizations to include more resources and expand to other countries.

Privacy Matters

Facebook said it took privacy and safety into account from the beginning. For example, Preventive Health allows you to set reminders for your future checkups and mark them as done, but it doesn’t provide Facebook or its partner organizations with access to consumers' test results. Personal information about a consumer's activity in Preventive Health is not shared with third parties, such as health organizations or insurance companies, so it can’t be used for purposes like insurance eligibility, the company noted.

The social media giant also said it will not show people ads base on the information they provide in the new tool. But the company reminded its consumers that other actions they take on Facebook could inform the ads they see, for example, liking the Facebook page of a health organization or visiting an external website linked to from the Preventive Health tool.

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