Facebook Has Just Launched New Healthcare Features

November 11, 2019
Digital Health

Many of today’s leading health threats aren’t ones that science or medicine can solve alone. Changing trends in communication and unequal access to care mean there is a need for new solutions and partnerships to overcome these global challenges.

For example, blood shortages. Every few seconds, someone in the world needs blood. But people often aren’t aware of shortages and don’t know where to donate. To address this, Facebook launched a feature in the US, India, Brazil, Bangladesh and Pakistan that makes it easy to sign up as a donor on Facebook and get notified when nearby blood banks are in need. So far, more than 50 million people have signed up to donate. According to the company’s blood bank partners in India and Brazil, 20% of voluntary, walk-in blood donors are coming from Facebook.

Another area Facebook is exploring is preventive health. Tens of millions of people in the US are missing out on recommended preventive care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To address the problem, Facebook is working with US health organisations to offer a new Preventive Health tool that connects people to health resources and checkup reminders. The initial focus is on the top two leading causes of death in the US: heart disease and cancer, as well as the flu, a seasonal illness that affects millions each year. The resources available in the tool are provided by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – organisations recognised for their education and expertise in these areas.

How Preventive Health Works

In the US, people can search for Preventive Health in the Facebook mobile app and find out which checkups, such as cholesterol tests or mammograms, are recommended by these health organisations 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 and set reminders to schedule future tests. People can also learn more about each checkup and find affordable places to receive care.

Most of the preventive measures recommended by the cooperating health organisations, such as blood pressure tests, are free of charge with insurance coverage. To help a considerable group of people without insurance, Preventive Health offers a way to find Federally Qualified Health Centers near them. These centres 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.

Besides Preventive Health tool, Facebook also introduced functions allowing to find a blood donor

“Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women around the world, and in many cases, it is 100% preventable. 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.” – says Richard Kovacs, MD, President of the American College of Cardiology.

“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.” – emphasises Eduardo Sanchez, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at the American Heart Association.

Privacy issues

Facebook claims, that although Preventive Health allows to set reminders for future checkups and mark them as done, it doesn’t provide the company, or the collaborating health organisations, access to user’s test results. Personal information about activity in Preventive Health is not shared with third parties, such as health organisations or insurance companies, so it can’t be used for purposes like insurance eligibility. Facebook also declares that it doesn’t show ads based on the information provided in the Preventive Health section.

Preventive Health and Blood Donations are just two of the healthcare-related tools Facebook offers. Other examples are Disease Prevention Maps that aim to help nonprofits and universities working in public health get ahead of disease outbreaks, plan vaccination campaigns and reach vulnerable communities more effectively.

In the press release issued on October 28th, the company also mentions that many people turn to health support groups on Facebook after being diagnosed with or while managing a health condition. Patients can there connect with others who have had similar health experiences and find information and support.