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Apple's Patent-Pending Invention Highlights Advancing work on a Tele-Medicine Sessions System



Earlier this month the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple revealing an invention that could one day play a part in Apple's Health Platform through HealthKit. Today Apple's Health app gives users an easy-to-read dashboard of your health and fitness data. But HealthKit is also behind new hospital systems like the one from Ochsner Health System, the largest not-for-profit academic medical center in the Gulf South which uses iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch to further its mission of innovation in healthcare.


2AF Ochsner


In Apple's Ochsner Health System Business Profile we learn that patients who enroll in Ochsner's Hypertension Digital Medicine Program track their health using iPhone, Apple Watch, the Health App, and HealthKit-enabled devices such as the Withings Bluetooth blood pressure cuff.


Rather than visiting the doctor a few times a year to record their blood pressure, they can take daily or weekly readings at home. The Apple Health app aggregates all health data on each patient's iPhone. A patient can elect to feed their health information directly into Ochsner's electronic medical record system (EMR) through the Epic MyChart app for iPhone. Clinical Pharmacists at Ochsner then visualize this data on a user-friendly dashboard, contacting patients and doctors if the patient's threshold triggers an alert.


This kind of system is on the cutting edge of what Apple wants to eventually bring to market in the form of Tele-Medicine Sessions between a doctor and patient so that it could save time for both the doctor and patients, especially busy professionals that are pressed for time. This is a system that Apple has a patent for and its one that recently came to light.


Apple's Patent Background


Medical treatments and diagnostics in the modern healthcare system often involve exchanges of a multitude of patient information and medical records to various health care providers for each patient. Current health care systems can be complex and fragmented resulting in redundancies and inefficiencies in collecting data that frustrate both patient and physician and delay diagnosis and treatment. Although the development of electronic medical records has improved exchange of information somewhat, health information within the electronic medical record is limited and must be updated periodically. In recent years, acquisition of health information and various health metrics outside of the electronic medical records has increased dramatically. The usefulness of such health information, however, is limited given the complexities and burden associated with dissemination of such large amounts of information. While treatments and diagnostics could be improved by utilizing the wide range of health information now available, providing such improvement is challenging and often problematic given the limited time and resources available in modern healthcare in addition to heightened concerns in regard to patient privacy.


Apple's Invention


Apple's patent pending invention pertains to facilitating treatment and/or diagnosis of a patient by facilitated communication between the physician and patient. In particular, systems and methods relate to facilitating communication of health information including a plurality of health data elements relating to the patient received by a portable computing device of the patient to the physician. Methods include sending to the physician, with the a portable computing device of the patient, a subset of a set of data of the plurality of health data elements requested by the physician, the subset being data authorized by the patient for sending to the physician.


Apple notes that in some embodiments, a first portable computing device of a patient receives a plurality of health data elements relating to the patient and initiating communication with a first physician with the portable computing device of the patient, typically in response to an input by the patient. In response to the initiating physician communication, the first portable device receives a health information query from the first physician, typically from a second computing device associated with the first physician. The health information query includes a request of a first set of data of the plurality of health data elements, the first set of data being associated with the treatment and/or diagnosis of the patient by the first physician. In response, the first portable computing device identifies a first subset of the plurality of health data elements that is authorized by the patient for communication to the first physician and outputs to the first physician, the first subset of the first set of data that excludes a second subset of the first set of data so as to facilitate the treating and/or the diagnosis of the patient by the first physician.


Cutting to the chase, Apple's patent is about Tele-Medicine Sessions.


A Tele-Medicine Pre-Session



Apple notes in their filing that since only a subset of the data set may be authorized by the patient, the system identifies what data of the set request is authorized to be released. In the example of FIG. 10B noted above, the patient receives the list of requested data on the user interface of the patient device, on which the patient may select individually or by category what data is authorized to be released to the physician.


In some embodiments, the patient device may include one or more pre-sets that automatically authorize certain data to be released. For example, as shown in FIG. 10B, the patient may choose from various preset authorization options: including "Select all;" "Sensor Data;" a customized preset, "Option 1;" a category based on the specialty or practice of the physician, "General;" a preset for a particular physician or condition of the patient, or an "Anonymous" option, which automatically deselects "name/age/sex/insurance" to allow the patient to remain anonymous.


A Tele-Medicine Session


In Apple's patent FIGS. 12A-12D noted below we're able to see a physician electronic device #402 (e.g. tablet device) and associated user interface during a tele-medicine session.


Apple's patent FIG. 12A illustrates the initiation of the tele-medicine session by the patient. The physician then selects a set of data of the plurality of health data elements to request from patient. Since the physician electronic device is also coupled with the physician data system and the electronic medical record, once the session is initiated, the physician's tablet may populate portions of the user interface with known information from the physician data system and the electronic medical record, as shown in FIG. 12A. This information may also be useful in determining what data health elements to request, to avoid redundancies or if certain other conditions or medications are indicated from the electronic medical records.


4af 88 tele-medicine figs 12a-d

In Apple's patent FIG. 12B noted above we're able to see an option screen on the user interface that indicates possible types of health information that may be stored on or accessed with the patient's device. These options are not indicative of data that is present, but merely of possible types of data that may be present. The physician then selects the set of data to be requested. The physician may select the types of data individually, or by various categories or groupings of data, or according to pre-selected lists based on the specialty or the condition being treated and/or diagnosed. The physician then sends the information request and, in return, may receive a subset of data of the first set that was authorized by the patient, such as shown in FIG. 12C. The plurality of health data elements received from the patient may be displayed in a particular region of the user interface alongside with certain other information obtained from the physician data system for comparison. In some embodiments, the telemedicine platform allows third party applications as extensions providing semi-automated analysis to highlight relevant features and save time for both the patient and the physician.


In another aspect, results and analysis of data processed by third-party applications can be displayed side by side for easy comparison and validation. As shown in FIG. 12C, health data elements of the plurality may be processed data displaying a trend over time or averaged data, which may be received from the patient device as processed data, or alternatively, information received from the patient may be processed using one or more application on the physician device.


In response to receiving the first subset of data, the physician sends a follow-up request for visual inspection of the bug bite region. As shown in FIG. 12D, the physician receives a photo of the bug bite region, in response, such that the physician can determine a likely exposure to Lyme disease, discuss the diagnosis with the patient and prescribe medication accordingly and schedule a follow-up. Along with any physician notes, all physicians' orders are communicated back to the patient via secure channels.


Clinical decisions support may be provided by third-party application on the physician device. Such applications may readily provide clinical guidelines, condition-specific order sets, focused patient data reports and summaries, drug-drug-interactions, diagnostic support and contextually relevant reference information (see textbook figure of typical target pattern of a tick bite exposure to Lyme disease shown in FIG. 12D).


About the Inventor


Apple patent application 20160210416 was filed in Q4 2015. Apple acquired this patent from Todd Whitehurst who used to work at Senseonics. His LinkedIn bio notes that Whitehurst led some R&D efforts for Apple Watch and HealthKit. He was highlighted in a 9to5Mac report back in February 2014. Interestingly Whitehurst left Apple in mid-2015 to join Google where he's now the Director of Hardware Development and Life Sciences where he's leading research and development efforts for a variety of new medical devices, including devices for diabetes management and vision care, in conjunction with strategic partners.


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