Facebook PHR

Everyone loves to talk about all the various PHR solutions out there. Ever since Microsoft and Google joined the PHR arena with HealthVault and Google Health there’s been a whole lot of discussion out there about patients accessing their records.

With all of this PHR discussion, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen a discussion of a PHR built on top of Facebook. At this point, there’s little point in arguing against the power of Facebook. A popular tech website, even ushered in the decade of Facebook (the 90’s being the decade of Microsoft and the 00’s being the decade of Google). I knew Facebook was really going mainstream when I started getting friend requests from my aunts and even a great aunt.

Now that so many people are on Facebook, then why not create a PHR on top of it? I don’t know that many regular people who care about PHR, but they care a lot about Facebook. Might Facebook be the way to get people to actually start using a PHR?

I’m sure just having Facebook and healthcare information in the same sentence is going to bring out the privacy and security nazis in a big way. No doubt, there would be a lot of privacy issues you’d have to address in order to make it happen. There are also some issues with Facebook being your platform (see the latest with Zynga and Facebook). However, what’s so crazy about a PHR on top of Facebook?

If it is crazy, then maybe that’s a good thing. I bet we’ll see a Facebook PHR sooner rather than later.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • The whole discussion about EHR is a complex one and in many ways a successful outcome depends on how the information is stored, organized and retrieved. Increasingly it is becoming accepted that ontological engineering will be an important factor in making this happen.

    Ontologies are great for data mapping that correlates data from disparate sources. Data disparity is endemic to EMR/EHR due to different systems storing the same data differently.

    Finding a software company that understands and uses ontologies is not easy.

    I am aware of a company that has made a significant break-thru with respect to ontological engineering and disease control that is worth note.

    It’s a small privately held SaaS development company based in Colorado that has developed and deployed an ontologically-based, GIS integrated disease management decision support system in Africa to fight malaria. This is a significant system that was funded by the global combatants of this disease and the system can be rapidly customized for deployment to other disease environments…especially if you are talking about vector-borne disease.

    The company, TerraFrame TerraFrame is interested in leveraging its technology to fight global diseases or other problems requiring better decision support systems and is happy to entertain creative conversations to that effect.

    For more information please contact Ray Hutchins at rh@terraframe.co

  • I’d say your last sentence is a sure bet: if it can be conceived, and it’s not illegal (or even if it is sometimes!), it will happen. Actually, with the plethora of new apps being built on Twitter and Facebook, I’m almost surprised it hasn’t happened at this point.

    I think the biggest concern isn’t with Facebook’s privacy settings per se, but the fact that they’ve been changing so much often lately. Users are getting frustrated with having to learn how to lock down information they thought was already secure, only to relearn it again in a few weeks or months. I’m wondering what the legalities will be if there is information that was considered “secure” that suddenly gets aggregated elsewhere.

  • I have often thought PHR’s will become a marketing tool of hospitals. Much like frequent flyer programs, they give patients a card with a smart chip and when you come into the clinic/ED/Hospital, then you hand over your card. That will allow access to the PHR to bring up info from the EMR as well as clinic visits and pharmacy information. The improve this record, hospitals would join a “network”, like Visa or MC of bank ATM’s, to link info.

  • Already happened. ReilefInSite which is a pain tracking application ported to FB a while back but found that keepingup the separate app wasnt worth the time.

    But for sure this is an interesting arena and we’re going to be involving FB in Health 2.0 this year

  • John,

    I have a simple question about any PHR, does it support HL7?

    From what I can tell, the answer is an overwhelming NO. Or as my wife calls such systems – it’s a write only file.

    What good is as PHR that can’t export it’s data in a form that other systems can read.

  • Really good discussion.

    Fascinating comparison with the ATM. I wonder if health data will become as transferable as that. Interesting to think about.

    I should know you’d be all over this. Although, that doesn’t look like a full PHR right? That seems like it’s one element of a PHR, pain management. Of course, the issues around privacy and security would be the very same and so it does show the potential of a full PHR on Facebook.

    BTW, when are you going to invite me to come and speak at Health 2.0? I could talk about the types of EMR vendors that are EMR 2.0 and things EMR vendors can learn from Web 2.0.

    If I remember right, a number of them are able to export CCR or CCD files (HL7’s one). So they are working on that possibility. The bigger problem is that so few doctors offices would know what to do if you showed up with a file like that.

  • I’m not one of the privacy nazis – I think they’re nuts, over the top, “hide my info at all costs.” As I’ve said many times publicly, I want innovation and that requires access to data.

    But Facebook is SO bad, SO irresponsible, with SUCH a record of nasty terms of service, that IMO to store any non-public data there would be like handing your car keys to a drunk teenager: you’d have any idea what might happen, because *s/he* doesn’t have a clue how to be responsible.

    So on this one, I’d say “nice idea [very populated platform] but completely inappropriate.”

  • Matthew, you betta ask FB if they’re going to provide a rock-solid encrypted private data capability, and/or the ability for users to totally lock down a section so that others can’t get at ANYTHING in that area.

    We already have famous cases of employers learning stuff about their staff on FB, even without people putting medical details there.

    I’d be happy to have an on-stage food fight about this subject. My position would be along the lines of “Don’t be effing STUPID, people.”

  • The Daves agree. Security of patient data overrides all considerations of convenience. From what I read in the news, Facebook has a long way to go in this regard.

    Still, let keep our eyes open for better ways to implement EMR.

    (Carl also makes a point I’ve stressed repeatedly — EMRs won’t take off until a common interchange format is utilized.)

  • This rang a bell… here’s something I wrote close to three years ago:

    A new model for EMR software: Facebook?

    These were thoughts in the pre-PHR days of course. A lot has happened in the industry since then. The “walled garden” concept is still a valid enabler and is why Facebook remains attractive for this purpose.

  • Facebook will never be a platform for an EMR as long as the current management structure is in place. Their continued disregard for privacy in the hunt for more income and revenue demonstrate that Facebook is not a platform for anything needing consistent privacy protections.

  • Mike,
    I don’t think that’s going to deter some entrepreneurial minded individual with little sense of the privacy requirements from trying.

  • Depends on whether they are doing it for the sake of doing it or if they are trying to make a living from it. Even an entrepreneurial minded person will find out really fast about privacy requirements and how Facebook really doesn’t fit the bill with the first Angel or VC they talk to…

    Having said that, I could see someone approaching WebMD about incorporating an EMR system there.

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