As many e-commerce retailers like Amazon and WalMart jockey for market share in the healthcare industry, social media giants are now eyeing healthcare-related services. Known for their ability to connect and engage consumers, having social media platforms like Facebook enter into the healthcare space seems like a logical and potentially disruptive emerging trend.

Girl on laptop looking at healthcare imagery

And, that is exactly what Facebook’s new Preventative Health Tool is expected to do. Starting out as Facebook’s technological remedy to the growing disparity in healthcare access, the new tool now offers users a way to connect to health resources and get medical provider notifications. Rolled out in late-2019, through the app, Facebook users will be able to set appointment reminders, schedule health screenings or tests, and search for affordable medical care services using their geotargeting capabilities.

But, Facebook hopes the app will help shrink the healthcare access gap. By combining artificial intelligence technology and Facebook’s highly-targeted features, the new health management tool will also send users health recommendations such as cholesterol tests or mammograms based on their gender and age. To ensure the accuracy of the recommendations provided, all app notifications are based on guidelines from the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To achieve their goal of unlocking greater healthcare access around the world, the preventive measures recommended by Facebook’s Preventative Health Tool will be free of charge with insurance coverage. In addition, the mobile application will allow users to find Federally Qualified Health Centers that can provide low-cost medical services near them.

In the aftermath of user data privacy concerns, the Preventative Health Tool won’t be immune to consumer data regulations. To ease user concerns about how their medical data will be used, Facebook will not share any diagnoses or other identifiable information collected by the app to third parties, including health organizations, insurance companies, or employers. And, to achieve complete transparency, the new mobile app will not show users any marketing ads based on the information they provide in the Preventive Health Tool.

But, that’s not all the new tool can do to improve health outcomes. Users will be able to share health updates on their personal timelines, invite friends and family members to connect with them on the app, and join health-related groups to support their healthcare goals. 

The question then becomes, what role will social media play in empowering consumers to take control of their health? Though the clear answer is yet to be seen, Facebook’s Preventative Health Tool is a clear indication that leveraging social media platforms as a way to engage people and their communities around healthcare management will be a trend to watch in 2020 and beyond.

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