Update, Oct. 12: if you want to see all of our posts and white papers from the series we did on the recent Facebook changes, you can visit this page.
Like many humans, you’ve probably noticed that Facebook has made some changes recently to its platform. For most people, these changes became apparent with the addition of Lists, a new News Feed structure, and the ticker. All of these changes will impact how people use Facebook and will force brands to rethink how they use the platform as well. I co-authored a point of view paper on all of these changes for my company, Possible Worldwide, and I’ll be discussing many of these over the coming days. I’ll include a link at the end of this post where you can pick up a copy of the full point of view paper. Rest assured that the paper and some upcoming posts will explain why I think brands need to completely rethink their approach to Facebook. The value of a “Like” isn’t what it used to be, so brands will need to find other ways for people to engage with them. I could go on for hours. Check out the paper or stay tuned for some upcoming posts for more details.
For today’s post, I wanted to talk about one really interesting new feature that is part of the Timeline format for profiles that Facebook has announced. If you don’t know what Timeline is, then check out this page that explains it all. I personally think this is one of the best things that Facebook has ever done with the platform. It’s a really aesthetically pleasing interface that serves as a really interesting digital scrapbook of your life. It’s got everything you’ve ever put on Facebook in an organized, time-based format and it looks great.
Timeline isn’t open to the public yet, but I’ve been using it for a couple weeks since they opened it up to developers. I’ve dug into it a lot and found out some potentially interesting things. On feature in particular stood out to me as having a potential impact on healthcare. In Timeline, all of your past posts are neatly listed in a…well…timeline format. However, there is also the option to add content to any date in the past. That is, you could add a picture from your wedding that happened long before Facebook existed. It’ll show up in the right spot right in the Timeline. In fact, Facebook gives you some ideas on what content you might consider adding in.
You probably recognize the first three icons in this new status box that resides on your Timeline page. However, the next five are new. The represent (from left to right): work and education, family and relationships, living, health and wellness, and milestones and experiences.
The image at the top of this post is what you see if you select the “Health and Wellness” icon. I find it fascinating that Facebook included this as a top level status option. The other areas are things that we routinely share on Facebook, but for most people, sharing health information anywhere (much less on Facebook) is unheard of. However, for those who have heard many of my recent presentations, you know that I’m not a fan of healthcare privacy. I argue constantly that if people gave up a little privacy it would likely make them and the rest of us a lot healthier. I won’t get into the debate here, but if you’re interested, check out this presentation below around the 16:40 mark for my entire rap on healthcare privacy (link here as well).
What Facebook has done (intentionally or not) is started to encourage people to give up a little of their healthcare privacy by encouraging them to share health-related events in their lives. They even suggest a few to get you started (“Broke a Bone”, “Had a Surgery”, “Overcame an Illness”). However, you can put in anything you want here. One of the big reasons why people don’t share health information publicly, including Facebook, is because they don’t see others doing it. It’s not the norm. Well, sharing your location wasn’t the norm a few years ago, but people started doing it via “checkins” and now it’s pretty common among a large percentage of people. The question is whether this will extend to sharing health information.
My prediction is that it will. Not today or tomorrow, but in the near future. The tipping point will be when people start noticing some benefit for sharing this information. There really isn’t much incentive now. However, if you knew that you’d get better care by sharing this information, you probably would. There a great story about how a woman inadvertently used Facebook to save her son’s life. Basically, she posted pictures of her sick kid and several of her friends noticed that there might be something seriously wrong. She gave up some privacy and got better care. One of the pioneers in this area is Dr. George Church (a brilliant Harvard geneticist) who in 1999 (yes, 1999) put all of his medical records online with the theory that he’d get better care by doing so. You can watch a great interview with him here where he discusses this concept, but here’s his recap of what happened when he put his records online and gave up his healthcare privacy:
“Around 1999, very early on, they gave me full access to my medical records and I put all my medical records up on the internet and interestingly a hematologist contacted me and noticed from my medical records that I was overdue for a cholesterol test, having picked up a cholesterol drug, Lovastatin. And sure enough, I tested it out and it was having no effect; it was an inadequate dose and so that resulted in getting the right dose and the right diet and may have added many quality years of life in my case.”
There’s no doubt in his mind that healthcare privacy isn’t necessarily a good thing.
There is certainly a lot that people won’t share. I frequently show the image below as a warning to pharma companies that are thinking about creating prescription drug pages on Facebook. I think it speaks for itself.
There are some things that people won’t share…at least they won’t share it today. What Facebook has done by adding a “Health and Wellness” status update is subtly encourage all of us to start sharing more about our health. Sharing this will improve our health and also those of us around us. Sites like CureTogether have demonstrated what powerful information can come out of people sharing information about their health. You’ll only see more of this in the future, so get ready.
Also, don’t forget about the feature that Facebook added a couple of months ago that allows pharma and healthcare Pages to add a footer that is always visible, which can be added to the bottom of your Facebook Page. This can be used for disclaimers or other information that you always want visible. This postincludes a video demonstration of exactly how to implement this feature. You can see this feature in action on this Facebook Page for Curital, an imaginary pharma product I created.