Apple's Original Patents Relating to Health App and ResearchKit Surfaced in Europe this Week
Patently Apple reported on the first of three Apple patent applications yesterday that were published by the European Patent Office late on Thursday. Our first report titled "New Apple Watch Patent Covers Wearable Multi-Modal Physiological Sensing System," focused on advancing the Apple Watch's heart rate sensors to work while a user is in motion. Today we're reporting on the second and third patents in this group which cover Apple's Health app and ResearchKit.
Apple's Patent Background
Approximately 133 million Americans currently suffer from at least one chronic condition. This number is expected to rise to approximately 165 million by the year 2020. As a result, the cost of healthcare in the United States is expected to increase dramatically. Attempts have been made to improve the health of individuals by providing them with tools to monitor and track their wellness data. Wellness data can generally include any type of data associated with a person's health, such as their weight, heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose level, medication compliance, activity level, or the like. Users can monitor their wellness using devices, such as blood pressure cuffs, blood glucose monitors, electrocardiograms, step counters, and the like.
Software applications (e.g., Apps) associated with each of these devices have also been developed to allow users to track their wellness data over time. While each application can be used to view useful information about a user's health, current applications are limited in their ability to allow users to store, view, and share wellness data collected by different devices.
Apple's Health App Solution
Apple introduced their Health App solution during their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2014 that was designed specifically for iOS 8 and beyond. The application is intended to be a personal and central data collection point, for connected third-party electronic accessories and wearable technology that can directly monitor and analyze an individual's biochemistry and physiology for medical and general fitness purposes.
As most know, Apple's Health app displays a dashboard of all the fitness and health data of the user, including the heart rate, calories burned, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other similar functions.
Users can also use the Health app to create a Medical ID, an emergency card with important medical details and emergency details. The Medical ID is accessible from within the Health app or from the lock screen.
Although most iOS users have the Health App sitting in their iPhone apps home screen, when the app is opened you're unable to see specific interfaces until you're actually using the app. To see what they will generally look like, Apple's Health app patent figures shown below will provide you with a grand overview of how they look and function.
Apple's patent FIG. 1A illustrates a block diagram of an example system for aggregating wellness data.
Apple's patent FIG. 1B illustrates a block diagram of an example system for sharing wellness data according to various examples.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted below illustrates an example process for authorizing and pushing wellness data to other authorized users such as family or friends as noted further below in patent FIG. 14.
Apple notes that the pushing of wellness or non-wellness data performed using process #200 can be useful in situations in which a user wants to keep a caregiver or family member (or other user) updated with his/her wellness or non-wellness data. For instance, an elderly parent can grant authorization to push his/her wellness or non-wellness data to a child to allow the child to easily monitor the elderly user's health or medication compliance without having to constantly request this information from the parent.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted above illustrates an example process #300 for authorizing other users to pull wellness or non-wellness data.
Below you'll find a series of 3 screenshots relating to the actual Health App. In this example the user chooses "All" categories which will lead to Interface 2. Here the user is able to choose from a long list of health related specifics that they wish to monitor over time. For this example, the user has first chosen "Blood Pressure." When pressed, Interface 3 is presented to the user which will be the place where their personal blood pressure stats will be stored.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4 further below, you're able to see that once the user has opened a series of health categories that they wish to monitor, Apple provides them with a folder-like user interface with all of the tabs reflecting the user's personal Health app. When any category is tapped, the full interface of that health item will open and collapse the others until the user is finished reviewing their particular health data.
Apple's patent FIGS. 4 through 9 illustrate example interfaces for displaying aggregated wellness data according to various examples. In the first set of interfaces below you're able to see
Health Interface: Weight
Health Interfaces: Blood Sugar & Blood Pressure
Health Interfaces: Activity & Heart Rate
Health Book Interface
Apple's patent FIG. 14 noted below illustrates another example interface for viewing the wellness data of other users with an interface called "Healthbook." As shown, the interface can include a list of users that have authorized the use of the data to another, like a family member.
In some examples, the circles next to each user's name can be replaced with an image associated with the user. These images can be the same as those used in the user's contact list or can include another image.
In the illustrated example, users #1402, #1404, #1406, and #1408 have been grouped into different categories (e.g., self, family, and friends). The categories can be used to logically group users together or can indicate a level of authorization to view the wellness data of the other users. For example, users in the "family" category may have authorized a larger set of their wellness data to be viewed, while users in the "friend" category may have authorized a smaller set of their wellness data to be viewed.
Apple's Third European Patent Covers ResearchKit
Apple's third patent application published in Europe late on Thursday appears to relate to ResearchKit by its patent abstract as follows:
"The present disclosure relates to receiving and sharing wellness data. The wellness data can be received by a user device from any number of sensors external or internal to the user device, from a user manually entering the wellness data, or from other users or entities. The user device can securely store the wellness data on the user device and transmit the wellness data to be stored on a remote database. A user of the device can share some or all of the wellness data with research entities conducting research studies, friends, relatives, caregivers, healthcare providers, or the like.
A part of Apple's patent summary states that "One example process may include receiving, from a plurality of user devices, wellness data authorized for storage to a database of wellness data; storing the wellness data in the database of wellness data; receiving, from a research entity, a request to access the database of wellness data; approving the request to access the database of wellness data; receiving, from the research entity, a request to perform a search query on the database of wellness data; performing the search query on the database of wellness data; and transmitting results of the search query to the research entity.
Apple further notes that "In some examples, the authorization authorizes an entity conducting a research study to access the at least a portion of the user's wellness data. In other examples, the authorization is transmitted to the server in response to the user selecting the research study from a list of research studies displayed on a user device of the user."
Apple's patent FIG. 1B noted above illustrates a block diagram of an example system for sharing wellness data; FIG. 3 noted below illustrates a block diagram depicting an exemplary interaction between a research entity and a health registry.
In another area of the patent filing, Apple notes that "For privacy reasons, different levels of authorization can be used to control access to the data contained in registry database #120. Once a user authorizes some or all of their wellness or non-wellness data to be accessed by adding their data to the registry database, the user or another entity, such as a review board associated with the registry database can provide researchers or querying entities with various levels of authorization to access the registry data."
In a first level of authorization, a querying entity can be given access to certain types of wellness data, such as blood pressure and height, for all registry participants. Under this level of authorization, the querying entity's access to data contained in the registry database can be limited to the types of data specified by the authorization.
In some examples, the owner/operator of the registry database can perform queries submitted by querying entities to further limit the access the researchers have to the wellness or non-wellness data contained in the registry database.
In a second level of authorization, a querying entity can be given limited access to data that allows the querying entity to identify potential study participants, generate population level histograms, or the like. Under this level of authorization, if the querying entity desires more detailed information about specific user records, then an explicit authorization from the associated users may be required.
The authorization from the user can be received in response to a request made by the querying entity and sent to the user by registry server #118 (of FIG. 1B of the second patent). The request can include a link or other selectable element that can allow the user to quickly opt-in to the study, thereby granting access to the user's wellness or non-wellness data. The link or other selectable element can be part of a user interface associated with Apple's Health app.
Apple adds that "Users can also proactively provide explicit authorization to some or all of their wellness data to selected research studies."
Apple's patent makes 26 legal patent claims relating to this invention that was originally filed for in December 2013.
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