Reuters has reported this morning that Facebook are planning to step into the healthcare world with a range of health tracking applications and platforms, following Apple and Google’s lead.

Sources close to the company revealed that meetings with medical experts and entrepreneurs had been held at Facebook to discuss the launch of a new department which will test and develop health apps and services.

The exact healthcare strategy has not yet been revealed; however one team is reportedly looking at creating ‘preventative care’ apps, designed to use personal health data to advise and support users wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Reports also suggested that Facebook will introduce ‘support communities’ across the social media portal, which will connect users suffering from similar conditions or ailments. This idea was said to have sparked from the amount of Facebook users querying the site for health advice, information, and support from others with the same illnesses.

The company headed up by CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has delved into various healthcare initiatives in the past, including a popular Steve Jobs-inspired organ donation feature. Zuckerberg and his paediatrician wife, Priscilla Chan, have also donated heavily to local healthcare projects, notably giving $5mn to a community health centre in Palo Alto, Facebook’s town of residence.

Recently Facebook has had to tackle heavy criticism against its treatment of user privacy after it was found to have conducted a number of psychological experiments using data from its users’ personal newsfeeds. The health services which Facebook is reportedly working on are therefore not expected to be promoted under the social media giant’s branding. The reports claim that the group will prefer a ‘quieter’ release under a different alias, muting potential privacy concerns surrounding the theft and sharing of personal health information with acquaintances.

Enthusiasm for health technology has grown exponentially recently with increasingly more designers and manufacturers looking to take advantage of fitness-conscious consumer trends. This year has seen the launch of both Apple’s HealthKit app, and the Google Health initiative, which aims to encourage developers to build new health and fitness apps on Android software.

@thestack_alice