Is FaceBook the next Personal Health Record?

Imagine it. FaceBook is building massive infrastructure leveraging thousands of employees to allow you to share seamlessly, but privately and securely, exactly what you may wish to share or not share.

Sound familiar?

FaceBook’s core value proposition allows it to invest vastly more into its privacy controls than most companies on the planet. The very lifeblood of the company depends upon customers trusting what and to whom content is shared.

Computational infrastructure is costly. If one were to try to estimate the cost of building Microsoft HealthVault, a back of the envelope calculation on the 800 employees of Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group which built HealthVault would give estimates that Microsoft spent almost $1B across the five years during the initial launch of the service.

That’s a large first step for any company wanting to build a PHR with security to serve the demands, desires and needs of the modern healthcare consumer.

Already today, people share content to FaceBook and then lock that content from being seen by anyone but themselves.

Think about it. At its core, that is a PHR. Personal Health Records (PHRs) store patient medical data securely with access controlled by the patient. PHRs have struggled with business models. Google Health shut down and Microsoft HealthVault continues to work towards mainstream adoption.

Yet, as those efforts struggle, FaceBook is building the near ideal infrastructure for storing vast amounts of personal content which can be shared securely.

Zuckerberg’s Law of Information Sharing is that the amount of personal information shared by people is doubling every year.

Some believe the law is flawed by noting that we are “running out” of media to share. This might be true if we were only sharing photos and videos. There is much more to share if we add the world of healthcare. Our genome has 3 billion base pairs. Our microbiome is one hundred times larger representing over 300 billion more base pairs and varies week to week with changes to our diet, health, and travel. Add realtime physiologic stream data like pulse, temperature, and sleep and suddenly FaceBook appears to have lots of room to grow.

Could FaceBook be the world’s next PHR? Could it be yours?

Mike Gillam, MD, FACEP  2015


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