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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chilling PHR Patents

This was an interesting press release that crossed my desk a couple of days ago.  Quoting from the release [emphasis mine]:
According to Ted Ward of the law firm Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor LLP (, which represents the Company as patent litigation counsel, "The MMR health IT Patent Portfolio means that anyone who provides a consumer with a Web-based portal, including hospitals, physicians and pharmacies, where the consumer can access personal health information may be infringing on MMR's IP." Ward added that Liner is in the process of contacting hundreds of hospitals and physician group practices to discuss opportunities to license the Company's IP in advance of 2014 Meaningful Use requirements to provide patients online access to their health information within four days of the information being available to the doctor and within 36 hours of being discharged from the hospital.
Chilling, especially the part in bold.

Relevant patents referenced in the release are:
  • Method and System for Providing Online Records (which will soon be issued), and which links to this application.
  • 8,117,646  Method and System for Providing Online Records
  • 8,117,045  Method and System for Providing Online Records
  • 8,121,855  Method and System for Providing Online Records
There's nothing fundamentally surprising to one versed in the art of the Internet in these patents as far as I can tell.  It's not clear to me (because I am not a lawyer), how fundamentally this could impact things like Direct.  The patents seem relevant when e-mail is involved.  I'll be looking at them to see how they impact ABBI.  So far, what I'm dealing with can use any back end that can provide health information in a certain way.

The earliest filing date seems to be in Q3 of 2005.

There seems to be quite a bit of prior art that I'm aware of, but I've not fully groked the patents in question either.

I know I was thinking about PHRs prior to Q3 2005, and using the Internet to exchange information.  We created XDS in 2004, and prototyped it in 2003.  The original XDS (XDS.a to newbies) included e-Mail as a transport mechanism for health data for patients back in 2004 (ftp to PDF). You'd want to look at the off-line mode of operation, in which IHE specifically talks about using SMTP (e-mail) to communicate health data between systems.  In that specification, we discuss the creation of a patient health record account, and the submission of documents to that account using the Provider and Register transaction.  In off-line mode, that includes transmission via e-mail.

We considered patients to be part of this network back then, and also in early PCC days (see 6/1/2005 Minutes).   Using e-mail for notifications was one of the early additions to the IHE family of XDS related profiles.  I started in the NAV project in late 2004, and we published the first draft of Notification of Document Availability in 2005.

I know AHIMA had developed a practice brief on Personal Health Records back in 2005, I'd love to see that version of the brief.  What you can find today was updated not too long ago.  You can also see what the site looked like back in late 2003.

So, what do you think about this press release?  And the claims of these patents?  I'd be interested in hearing from you.

-- Keith

I'd be interested in hearing what others think about these patents.  


  1. Great post Keith.

    In looking at only the first patent I think that while LinerLaw has merit in their inquiries, the IP probably won't hold up over time. MMR references "fax communications" and a "portal to receive faxes" which will probably be shown to be different than the concepts of today.
    That being said, the IP issue is interesting - given both Google and Microsoft's venture into PHRs and the growth of systems like Practice Fusion offering their our PHR/Portal access capability.

  2. I didn't dive into the patents, but want to point out that Indivo ( has been around since 1998 and the paper on its predecessor, Guardian Angel (, was published in 1994.

    Yeah, good luck with those patents!

    1. Thank you, I should have remembered Indivo.

  3. Keith, it appears this is very real. here is the latest pres release from MMR after being granted a patent affecting PHRs and portals: