Will Facebook Become the Next PHR? | Jennifer Prestigiacomo | Healthcare Blogs Skip to content Skip to navigation

Will Facebook Become the Next PHR?

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Blood donation might be the next step for social network

Today, May 1, Facebook is stepping into the personal healthcare sphere by adding organ donor status to its Timeline structure, which asks users to check off their status and directs them to Donate Life America's National Registration Page, allowing them to designate a donation decision if they have not done so already.

The New York Times reports that this is not the social network behemoth's first foray to address a social and health-related issue. Late last year it launched a service called “lifeline” that allows people to make contact with a suicide-prevention counselor or report someone through Facebook who they fear might be suicidal. 

Now that Facebook users can designate organ donation status, it might be only a matter of time for Facebook to partner with the Red Cross to allow users to designate their blood type, and be alerted when their blood type is needed in their communities. As they say, there's already an app for that: Takes All Types lets users identify their location and blood type, and say how often and how (via Facebook, email, text message, etc.) they are willing to be contacted to donate blood, and if a shortage occurs, the app will contact the user.

I'm curious what the future repercussions of this decision by Facebook will be. Will allowing users to select a donation status be make it more comfortable for people to put even more health information on their timelines? Will your timeline become a personal repository not only for your friendships, photos, but also your personal health information? The social network is already a means for patients to seek others who are say diabetics like them, so will patients be treating Facebook as their own personal health record? Can Facebook do what Google Health couldn't?




Facebook, like Google won't want to have to be HIPAA compliant. Compliance curtails all the avenues to revenue short of actually getting the end user to pay for the solution.

Short of Congress or the courts gutting HIPAA, I don't see Facebook wanting to be a PHR. Alternative, Facebook could yet again change their TOS such that you by default give them the right to disseminate all your PHR data at their whim. In either case, I wouldn't participate.

Hi Doubtful,
Thanks for commenting! While I do agree with your assessment that Facebook probably wouldn't want to be HIPAA compliant, I do see consumers becoming much more comfortable putting health information like organ/blood donation status, as well as smoking status, weight loss tracking etc. on social networks. I envision that Facebook and other online apps could become repositories for patients to record this information to then use as records to refer to when visiting their doctors.

When organizations & employers are now screening employees by our health life styles, or not, & making hiring choices based on this information, I think not! Seems every week in the news we are hearing of how some personal info on the web has inadvertently affected some ones future. So the future of FaceBook as a Health Care repository seems in a sense "self-defeating" at best.


I think your article is an example of "learning to use a hammer". The only issue is that every problem starts to look like a nail.

The portal and repository, whatever it ends up being infrastructure wise will have heavy security and will have three accession points; the patient, the provider and the DBA that maintains the gigantic mountain of data; including imaging.

The patient or subscriber will control access. Given Facebook's history with security, I have a hard time believing anyone would trust that kind of information to them.

Check out a company called Cerner Corporation. I've read that they are entering the 'cloud' arena and with more than "hey, I'm a donor".

I think that Facebook can do what Google Health couldn't. In the end it is about education and having not only the consumer, but also the medical organization well versed in how Facebook works, privacy and social media policy. While I don't think it will happen over night, there are many things such as this which we will see coming around the bend over the next year.