Apple wants to make it easy to located medical providers near you as evidenced by a newly granted patent (number US 11636163 B2) for “techniques for anonymized searching of medical providers.”
About the patent
In the patent Apple notes that users typically visit more than one health institution to obtain medical treatment. For example, a user may periodically visit a neighborhood clinic for annual physical evaluations and for minor medical procedures. An electronic health record (EHR) is a computer-stored and transferrable copy of a user’s physical health record.
The neighborhood clinic may maintain an instance of the user’s electronic health record (e.g., using an EHR system, sometimes referred to as an electronic medical record (EMR) system). When the user visits, a medical professional may update the electronic health record.
However, Apple notes that different instances of the user’s electronic health record may be maintained by other health institutions that are unaffiliated with the neighborhood clinic. For example, the user may have visited a surgical center for a surgery, been transported to an emergency room in connection with an accident, or may have visited a different clinic while on vacation in a different city.
Each of the surgical center, the emergency room, and the different clinic, may have created an instance of the user’s electronic health record, which may be maintained using different EHR systems. The EHR systems may provide patient portals for accessing health records on their systems.
Because these portals are built and maintained by different organizations, accessing each by the user may require a unique set of user credentials. And once the user logs in to a particular portal, she is still limited by what portion of her electronic health record will be available for viewing.
Existing computer systems may be able to maintain a single connection to a single EHR system, but challenges may arise when these systems attempt to programmatically maintain multiple connections across multiple EHR systems. What’s more, Apple says that because different medical professionals contribute to the instances of the electronic health record, data inconsistencies may exist between electronic health records sourced from different EHR systems.
Conventional data rectification techniques may prove insufficient to resolve these types of data inconsistencies. However, Apple wants to do just that.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “A server may maintain information about entities such as medical entities. A user device can send search queries to the server to obtain information about a particular medical entity. The server and/or the user device may maintain information relating to the particular medical entity in a manner that a relationship between the particular medical entity and the user device can be obfuscated from the server. By doing so, privacy of a user of the user device can be protected.”