WO2001024038A2 - Internet brokering service based upon individual health profiles - Google Patents

Internet brokering service based upon individual health profiles Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2001024038A2
WO2001024038A2 PCT/US2000/026455 US0026455W WO0124038A2 WO 2001024038 A2 WO2001024038 A2 WO 2001024038A2 US 0026455 W US0026455 W US 0026455W WO 0124038 A2 WO0124038 A2 WO 0124038A2
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
recited
health
consumer
information
plurality
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PCT/US2000/026455
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French (fr)
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WO2001024038A3 (en
Inventor
Peter A. Thompson
Junius A. Evans
Robert C. Duncan
Joseph A. Condurso
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Imetrikus, Inc.
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Priority to US15635299P priority Critical
Priority to US60/156,352 priority
Priority to US53965500A priority
Priority to US09/539,655 priority
Application filed by Imetrikus, Inc. filed Critical Imetrikus, Inc.
Publication of WO2001024038A2 publication Critical patent/WO2001024038A2/en
Publication of WO2001024038A3 publication Critical patent/WO2001024038A3/en

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/02Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F19/00Digital computing or data processing equipment or methods, specially adapted for specific applications
    • G06F19/30Medical informatics, i.e. computer-based analysis or dissemination of patient or disease data
    • G06F19/32Medical data management, e.g. systems or protocols for archival or communication of medical images, computerised patient records or computerised general medical references
    • G06F19/324Management of patient independent data, e.g. medical references in digital format
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F19/00Digital computing or data processing equipment or methods, specially adapted for specific applications
    • G06F19/30Medical informatics, i.e. computer-based analysis or dissemination of patient or disease data
    • G06F19/32Medical data management, e.g. systems or protocols for archival or communication of medical images, computerised patient records or computerised general medical references
    • G06F19/328Health insurance management, e.g. payments or protection against fraud
    • GPHYSICS
    • G16INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY [ICT] SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR SPECIFIC APPLICATION FIELDS
    • G16HHEALTHCARE INFORMATICS, i.e. INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY [ICT] SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR THE HANDLING OR PROCESSING OF MEDICAL OR HEALTHCARE DATA
    • G16H10/00ICT specially adapted for the handling or processing of patient-related medical or healthcare data
    • G16H10/60ICT specially adapted for the handling or processing of patient-related medical or healthcare data for patient-specific data, e.g. for electronic patient records

Abstract

Methods, apparatus and computer-readable media are disclosed for gathering medical, health, and wellness related information for a consumer based on a health profile of the consumer. Health and medical information for a consumer is gathered based on a health profile of the consumer. A health profile associated with a consumer is accessed and maintained by a service provider. The health profile has numerous "events" reflecting health, medical, and wellness characteristics of the consumer. Information relevant to the consumer based on the health profile is retrieved from numerous external sources, such as Web servers and library files, at certain predetermined time intervals or on demand by the consumer. Relevant information is displayed in a user interface in a manner that allows efficient evaluation of the information by the consumer. In addition , the health and medical profile of the consumer can be modified through the user interface.

Description

INTERNET BROKERING SERVICE BASED UPON INDIVIDUAL

HEALTH PROFILES

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to computer software and Internet information collecting technology. More specifically, the present invention relates to methods of collecting and presenting health and wellness information over the Internet to users.

2. DISCUSSION OF RELATED ART

In today's market for health, medical, and wellness products and services, there is often a disconnect or lack of communication between consumers and providers of such products and services. With the growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web, consumers, typically individuals but also including health care providers, corporations, and other public and private entities, have an increasing appetite for information. Self-empowerment and education by seeking information on the Internet has been a growing trend for several years, starting in the mid-1990's. Consumers of health care services and products make up an increasingly large segment of those seeking information on a particular subject or product from the Internet. This has been fuelled by a growing desire to be less dependent on one physician, specialist, or health care organization. For example, it has been a common practice for decades for patients to get a "second opinion'" from another physician before having a serious operation. Getting information from the Internet on health and wellness related issues is essentially an extension of this practice. Although true in other fields, individuals suffering from a health condition or ailment are likely more inclined to gather and learn as much as they can about their condition than consumers of other products or services. Because their health and physical and mental well-being maybe at stake, consumers in the health care field have a strong interest in gathering as much information, preferably objective, material as possible on a relevant service or product. For example, a person with a herniated disk in the lower back may not be informed ofthe most recent laser-based procedures from his or her general physician or chiropractor. In another situation, a patient may be instructed to take a particular prescription drug and not be told why he or she is taking it or whether there are any alternatives (this is often not done intentionally by health care providers but has simply become the way many carry out their practice). In both cases, and countless others, the patient may be able to locate the "missing" information from the Internet. Recently , it is increasingly likely that the maker of an alternative drug or the proponents of the laser-based procedure will have information posted on the Web. It is also more likely these days that objective, third-party literature or comparison studies of such drugs or procedures are also available on the Internet. This continually expanding pool of information would very likely provide any consumer with enough information to be knowledgeable about a particular condition, subject, or concept in the health and wellness fields. In addition to all the directly relevant data available, the amount of which would vary depending on the topic, there is all the collateral and indirectly related information that is available, e.g. the dangers of prescription drugs versus homeopathic medicine or the history of laser-based medical procedures. A consumer may be overwhelmed with all the information returned from conducting simple key- word or natural language searches on widely used Internet search engines. On the other hand, a consumer may miss a particularly relevant article or product description because of a slight variation in a keyword or because the consumer was not aware of an acceptable medical synonym of a particular keyword.

In addition to some of the obvious problems with simple information gathering, the consumer may likely have difficulties sorting and processing all the information once gathered. There may be hundreds of items for a particular condition of which only three or four are particularly relevant to the consumer. It may be highly impractical or burdensome for the consumer to determine those items. Other processing-type obstacles may include categorizing the information; many of the items retrieved may be relevant but for different aspects of a complicated condition and corresponding procedures. In any case, the consumer, typically an individual without medical or health care training, may have access to a wealth of information but may not be able to effectively use it.

Therefore, it would be desirable to have a consumer-based tool to gather and process health and wellness data for a particular consumer. Such a tool should be able to accept as input, among other items, all relevant information of a consumer and create a profile. The tool should then use this profile to gather relevant information from an extensive pool of chosen Web sites and other information sources. It would be desirable for the consumer to be able to access relevant information from a Web browser and for the consumer to be able to update the profile as needed thereby adjusting the information returned. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

To achieve the foregoing, methods, apparatus, and computer-readable media are disclosed for gathering medical, health, and wellness related information for a consumer based on a health profile of the consumer. In one aspect of the present invention, a method of gathering health and medical information for a consumer based on a health profile of the consumer is described. A health profile associated with a consumer is accessed and maintained by a service provider. The health profile has numerous "events"' reflecting health, medical, and wellness characteristics of the consumer. Information relevant to the consumer based on the health profile is retrieved from numerous external sources, such as Web servers and library files, at certain predetermined time intervals or on demand by the consumer. Relevant information is displayed in a user interface in a manner that allows efficient evaluation of the information by the consumer. In addition . the health and medical profile of the consumer can be modified through the user interface. In another embodiment of the present invention, data is gathered from the numerous external sources, typically accessible on the Internet, including web servers containing health, medical and wellness data. This information is gathered through the use of software agents. In another embodiment, an "event" is defined as a concept unique identifier (CUI). A first group of CUIs derived from the Universal Medical Language System (UMLS), is appended with a second group of CUIs defined by the service provider. A health profile is defined as a vector of medical concepts and health concepts relevant to the consumer.

In another aspect of the present invention, a system for storing and routing health and medical related information for a consumer where the system communicates with numerous external information sources and a consumer destination is described. The system includes a concept identifier repository storing entries or CUIs for numerous concept identifiers. A meta-knowledge base containing consumer input data, such as user experience data, is also included. Also part of the system is a user interface component for accepting user input and displaying health- related information. A vocabulary source contains numerous strings related to the numerous concept identifiers or CUIs. Also included is a software agent database that contains information on the instruction and control of software agents and search- related data retrieved by the software agents. In one embodiment of the present invention, the concept identifier repository stores concept unique identifiers (CUIs) defined by the Universal Medical Language System (UMLS) and by a service provider. In another embodiment of the present invention, the meta-knowledge base consists of a collection of tables and a consumer has an entry in the meta-knowledge base. In another embodiment of the present invention, the system includes a repository containing numerous software agents that retrieve resource locators from an external information source having specific pages. The system can also include a user interface component that contains a profile creation display component for entering health, medical, and wellness information. The user interface component can also contain a relevant content listing component displaying meta-data on various categories of information.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a computer-readable medium containing programming instructions for performing a method of gathering health and medical information for a consumer based on a health profile of the consumer is described. A health profile associated with a consumer is accessed and maintained by a service provider. The health profile has numerous "events" reflecting health. medical, and wellness characteristics of the consumer. Information relevant to the consumer based on the health profile is retrieved from numerous external sources, such as Web servers and library files, at certain predetermined time intervals or on demand by the consumer. Relevant information is displayed in a user interface in a manner that allows efficient evaluation of the information by the consumer. In addition . the health and medical profile of the consumer can be modified through the user interface.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a logical representation of a network configuration for searching and delivering information to a user/client from various health/wellness servers in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2a is a diagram showing a total body of CUIs as a combination of UMLS CUIs and the customized and temporary CUIs.

FIG. 2b is an example of a user vector of a user profile in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2c shows examples of graphs used to represent a user profile in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a diagram showing various components used in seeking relevant information for a consumer based on the consumer's profile in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of components in an aggregate server maintained by the service provider in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of an entry for a CUI in repository 402 in the present invention. FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of a process for retrieving resource locators using an agent in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram of one type of entry in the agent database in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. FIGS. 8a to 8d are sample screen shots of a user interface suitable for utilizing features and options in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a block diagram of a typical computer system suitable for implementing an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Reference will now be made in detail to a preferred embodiment of the invention. An example of the preferred embodiment is illustrated in the accompanying drawings. While the invention will be described in conjunction with a preferred embodiment, it will be understood that it is not intended to limit the invention to one preferred embodiment. To the contrary, it is intended to cover alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a server and client based computer program and associated databases as described in the various figures. To further illustrate the foregoing. FIG. 1 is a logical representation of a network configuration for searching and delivering information to a user/client from various health/wellness servers in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. A computer network 102, shown as the Internet, is illustrated as two logical components for explanatory purposes, but should be understood to constitute a single network. On network 102 is an aggregate server 104 that contains programs, rules, and databases for carrying out the present invention. In the described embodiment, aggregate server 104 can consist of multiple servers and data storage areas working in conjunction with each other to perform the functions of the present invention. Aggregate server 104 is described in greater detail in FIG. 4 below.

Also connected to network 102 are multiple Web servers 106 and other data sources such as corporate, governmental, and educational databases. These can include database servers and file servers. In most cases these data sources are Web servers containing information offered for public use but may also include proprietary databases if access to such databases has been previously arranged. Web servers and data sources 106 provide relevant health, medical, and wellness content and commerce opportunities, such as being a product or service provider. Also connected to network 102 are consumer client computers or wireless devices 108. These are typically stand-alone computers, such as PCs or dedicated Internet-access computers capable of running a browser program. They can also be PCs connected to a network having a Web server. They can also include wireless or non-wireless devices, such as personal digital assistants ("PDAs'"), hand-held computers, or cellular communication devices, having access to the Internet and capable of retrieving and displaying data from the Web.

FIGS. 2a, 2b, and 2c are illustrations of components used in deriving and maintaining a user health profile associated with a consumer in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Each individual consumer has a unique identifier that corresponds to a user health profile for that individual. In the described embodiment, a profile is a set of events recorded by a consumer or user where an event has a start date and may have an end date. A duration is defined as the time between a start date and a stop date. An event may have one of two types of causal relationships to other events. One type may be referred to as an "associated_with" relationship. In this relationship, an event 1 associated with an event 2 implies that event 1 has occurred (as an election) in order to have an effect on event 2 (e.g., a particular medication prescribed because of a certain condition). Another type of relationship may be referred to as a "caused_by"' relationship. In this relationship an event 1 is caused by an event 2; that is, event 1 has occurred as a direct consequence of event 2. A semantic type is a typed subset of events defined by a unique identifier by a health information service provider, controlling, maintaining, and utilizing components and methods of the present invention (hereinafter referred to as "service provider" or "health information service provider").

A basic component in defining a user profile is a data item referred to as a concept unique identifier or CUI. An event is a discrete conceptual element codified by a CUI, wherever possible. Those working in the health and medical fields are generally familiar with CUIs. A CUI is a computable string (e.g. CX73287) that refers to a single unique medical or health-related concept. The main body of CUIs is defined and maintained by the Universal Medical Language System or UMLS metathesaurus which is created and maintained by the National Library of Medicine. The UMLS is essentially a metathesarus that contains a listing of terms, their definitions, and synonyms. One of its purposes is to reconcile all the various terms and vocabularies for a single medical or health concept so there is consistency in that term's use in the field. It is a unified repository that aligns various vocabulary sources and can be referred to as a medical thesaurus. The UMLS can be examined on the Internet at www.hih.nlm.eov.

In addition to the main body of "predefined" CUIs in the UMLS database, a private entity can create its own temporary CUIs for use with its own processes thereby extending the body of CUIs. FIG. 2a is a diagram showing extending the body of CUIs. Privately defined CUIs 202 should take on the same format and follow the same rules as UMLS CUIs 204 accessed via the Internet. In the described embodiment, a total body of CUIs 206 is a combination of the UMLS CUIs 204 and customized and temporary CUIs 202. A process of creating the privately defined CUIs is described below. The health information service provider uses the UMLS CUI database 204. over which it does not have control, and creates and maintains the CUIs it defines 202, of which it does have control. In the described embodiment, the service provider first tries to locate an appropriate CUI from the UMLS database before defining its own temporary CUI.

One representation of a user profile is shown in FIG. 2b in the form of a vector of active CUIs 208. A vector typically contains multiple scalar data items where each data item is an active CUI term, such as item 210. This is described in greater detail below. The CUI terms are drawn from the pool of CUIs 206. Each CUI is a medical or health concept that is of some relevance to a user. For example, a consumer with multiple sclerosis would have CUIs related to MS in his user profile. If a consumer performed certain physical activities like mountain biking or yoga. CUIs related to these health concepts would also be included in the user's profile. Each CUI in a vector representation of a user profile can also be associated with a weight, such as item 212, indicating the relevance of the particular CUI to the user. For example, if the consumer suffers from MS and the condition is severe, the CUI(s) related to MS would have a high weight value. If the consumer practices yoga only occasionally, the CUI related directly to yoga may have a low weight value associated with it. It is also possible for a CUI not to have a weight associated with it or to have a single weight value associated with all the CUIs in the vector. As discussed in greater detail below, in the described embodiment, the health information service provider first tries to get the correct CUI from the UMLS database and if it cannot find it there creates or uses one of its own CUIs.

There are several ways to determine a weight for one. some, or all CUIs in an active CUI list for a user. One way involves the user informing the service provider of how important or relevant a particular CUI is to that user's medical condition. exercise routine, lifestyle, insurance coverage, and so on. The more important CUIs are assigned a greater weight value which is later used to determine a relevance score or meter for each data item found by the agents (described below). In another method, a weight for a CUI is determined by what the user decides to view and not view. The service provider can use this information to assign or reconfigure weights of active CUIs for a particular user. In another method, similar to the previous method, the service provider can examine the choices made by a group of users that has similar profiles with respect to what is viewed and what is ignored. By looking at the decisions of others in a similar demographic or geographical area, or others having a similar active CUI vector, the service provider can make an intelligent guess as to what the weight of a particular CUI should be for a user. For example, the service provider can determine the weight of a new drug being used by a user by examining the profile of other users taking the same drug and having similar profiles.

A method for identifying users similar to a given user should allow for specifying both a threshold on the similarity as well as on the number of users meeting the criteria. The method should also have a "common sense" understanding of the derived similarity. The general goal is to dynamically construct weights of CUIs for users by watching the preference of other users; in other words, making smart guesses of preferences of a user by examining the content and choices made by the user's "peers" or other users having a similar profile. These methods are based on the assumption that when a new health challenge is chosen by a user, it will reflect the experience of the community thereby increasing the precision of the "guess" as to what other health challenges the user is likely to log. This is particularly relevant in determining what the "pick list" for a user should contain.

In the described embodiment, a method of determining similarity involves defining a vector of events with start dates and no stop dates for each user p. The vector can be represented as {ai event] . a2 events, . . . aη event,-, } where aη is a scalar

"weight" variable. Thus, p = a * e , where a is a weight vector and e is an event vector. Next, a scalar operator on p such as A(p) is defined. The similarity of an z'th user to the /th user is defined as _>(ij) - A(p * p)/A(p). In the described embodiment, this method of determining similarities does not represent causal or temporal relationships, as described below.

One way of calculating a weight once one or more methods for determining the weight has been chosen is to first calculate the sum of previously determined weights w(l) to w(n). For a particular CUI. a CUI scalar value is calculated. This scalar value is calculated by first taking the sum of the existing weights (coefficients) for that CUI. This sum is the highest scalar value that can be assigned to the CUI for the user. The scalar value is then divided by the sum of the previously determined weights. The highest value of this ratio is one. The sum of the weights is the denominator of the CUI score. As described below, the relevance of a particular page in a site to a consumer is determined in part by the weights for each CUI. For example, suppose a consumer has only two CUIs: one for a health challenge, such as AIDS, and another for a medication. Suppose both have a weight of one since they are both important to the patient. The denominator of the CUI score is therefore two. If a page has only mentioned the medication but not AIDS, it gets a relevance score of ! _. If it has both it gets a relevance score of one. which is the highest scalar value. A database containing a list of pages (URLs) and CUIs found on that page is described below in FIGS. 4 and 7.

Using the same simple example, if the consumer has a third CUI reflecting diet and it has a weight of .4. a page that is relevant only to that CUI will have a relevance score of (.4)/(2.4). Whether this page is presented to the user depends on whether the score exceeds a threshold relevance value for that user. If the page mentions the diet CUI and the medication CUI. its score would be (1.4)/(2.4). which is more likely to meet a relevance threshold for the consumer.

FIG. 2c shows examples of two graphs of a user profile in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. In the described embodiment, a graph is composed of nodes connected by edges. A tree is a sub-type of acyclic directed graph. A node in a rooted tree is defined as a unique identifier, such as a CUI, a start date, and a duration. A node can either be of finite duration or of indefinite duration (no stop date). In the described embodiment, there are various types of graphs representing different relationships and contexts. Each of these specific sub-graphs are combined to form a complete graph that represents a user profile in the described embodiment. The graphs represent temporal, causal, and intentional relationships of CUIs relevant to a particular user. In the described embodiment, an edge in a graph can represent either an "associated_with" (intentional) relationship or a "caused_by" (causal) relationship.

One type of rooted tree that can be used to represent a user health profile is a Tree 240 as shown in FIG. 2c. Each user can have one and only one tree of type tree 240 for representing his or her user profile. Tree 240 has two levels not including the root. Edges 242 represent "caused_by" or causal relationships between nodes in level 1 and level 2 as shown. A root node 244 represents an individual user and the user's age if known. If known, the start date is set to the birthdate otherwise it is set to the current date. Thus, the duration is equal to the age if the birthdate is known and zero if unknown. A stop date for root node 244 can be entered by the service provider and can correspond to death or an inactive account. Nodes in level 1 , such as node 246, are restricted to those events recorded by the user as having a semantic type of "Health Challenge." A semantic type is defined by the health information service provider as a typed subset of events or CUIs, the subset having a unique identifier. There is at least one node at level 1 for each user. Node 246 contains an Event A of semantic type Health Challenge 1. Nodes in level 2 are children nodes of nodes in level 1. such as node 248. These nodes have an inverse "caused_by" relationship, shown by line 242. with the health challenge node in level 1 for a user. In the described embodiment, this level may be unoccupied in a particular user's graph. The event in level 2 nodes, such as Event Al in node 248 is caused by Event A in node 246. Similarly. Event A2 in a level 2 node 250 is caused by Event A. Another type of tree is also shown in FIG. 2c. A tree 252 is a tree in which the relationship between nodes in level 2 and level 3 are "associated_with" relationships, as represented by lines 254. A root node 256 represents an event or CUI that has a "Health Challenge" semantic type. There is one node for each semantic type (as defined by the service provider) in level 1. Nodes in level 1, such as node 258. have a particular semantic type, a start date, and a stop date. The start date is the earliest start date of the node's level 2 (child) nodes and the stop date is the latest stop date of the level 2 nodes. If there are no level 2 nodes attached to a particular node, the start date is the current date and the duration is zero. A node 258 in level 1 is of semantic type 1. Nodes in level 2 are attached to nodes in level 1. They represent events of the same semantic type as the level 1 (parent) node, such as node 260. The events in level 2 nodes are "associated with" the health challenge of the root node. Nodes in level 3 are attached to level 2 nodes and have the same unique identifier as the level 2 node (e.g. semantic type). Level 3 nodes conceptually represent multiple occurrences of the same event as its level 2 node wherein the occurrences occurred for the same reason. The number of trees of tree type 252 for any user equals the number of health challenges for that user.

A health profile can be represented as a set of rooted trees, such as one of type tree 240 or a set of trees of type tree 252. In a preferred embodiment, a single rooted tree can also have two edge types. For example, for each user trees of type tree 252 are rooted in the level 1 nodes of tree type 240 for that user. In any subtree at any given level, the ordering of nodes from left to right are in chronological order.

When creating and updating a user profile, the user chooses terms or strings associated with various CUIs. This "pick list" can be refined to better reflect past choices by the user and new health challenges for the user. The list can also be refined to reflect geographic and demographic patterns of the user's experience (as reflected in the profile) and that of the user's community experience. Thus, the pick list of CUIs for a particular user can expand or contract with time depending on the activities and choices made by the user and the user community. For example, some CUIs chosen by an elderly male user may cause certain drugs to be eliminated from his pick list because they are clearly inappropriate for that user, such as drugs that should only be taken by females or users under thirty who have chosen the same CUIs. Thus, over time the user's pick list will become more refined and intelligent reflecting the user's and community's experience. FIG. 3 is a diagram showing various components used in seeking relevant information for a consumer based on the consumer's profile in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. A pool of CUIs 302 (also shown as CUI pool 202 in FIG. 2a) defined by the health information service provider is used as input to or is combined with at least two other data sources: a UMLS metathesarus 304 (CUI pool 204 in FIG. 2a) and a service provider vocabulary source 306. As described above, the service provider can define its own CUIs for concepts and terms not defined by any of the UMLS CUIs. These are stored in CUI pool 302. UMLS meta- thesaurus 304 is maintained by the UMLS and contains layman terms and synonyms corresponding to UMLS CUIs. Service provider CUIs are used as input to UMLS meta-thesaurus 304 which outputs a string of synonyms 308 related to CUIs from pool 302. Service provider vocabulary source 306 contains a list of synonyms and related terms associated with the CUI defined by the service provider. It also outputs strings 310 of synonyms and layman terms provided by users to the service provider related to the service provider's CUIs. similar to strings 308 which are based on UMLS defined CUIs and synonyms. The synonyms are collected by the service provider from the users (i.e.. the user tells the service provider "this is what I meant by" a particular term not represented by an existing CUI) and used to create synonym relationships. In addition to building synonym relationships from the lay vocabulary of the users, the service provider can also record which user suggested a particular lay term and further refine or personalize that user's pick list and user interface.

Synonym list 308 and list 310 are used as input to a web agent 312. A list of trusted sources 314 is selected by the service provider. In the described embodiment, these sources are typically web sites containing a wide variety of information ranging from highly specialized medical and science research papers to information on the health benefits of taking daily walks to factual information on different health insurance plans. Source list 314 includes names of sources that have been evaluated to some degree and is determined as reliable and "trusted" sources of information. These resources include health plans, drug knowledge bases, databases of physician service providers, databases of dental service providers, and pharmaceutical sources. among numerous others. For example, the Web site for Aetna Life Insurance Company or the New England Journal of Medicine are regarded as trusted information sources for health insurance or medical research, respectively. Many other sites may require closer scrutiny to determine whether they should be considered as reliable sources of information. Criteria used to determine which sites and data sources are included in list of trusted sources 314 can vary depending on the needs or standards set by the service provider.

Web agent 312 receives as input the list of trusted sources 314 and the list of synonyms 308 and 310. A web agent is a programmed module that is given a block of instructions, part of which are the list of synonyms and the list of trusted sources. These items essentially instruct a particular web agent what to look for based on the lists of synonyms and where to go based on the list of trusted sources (a list of addresses). Agent 312 identifies areas of interest in a document based on synonym lists 308 and 310. In the described embodiment, web agent 312 performs matching once at a source web site based on a semantic medical matching protocol (using controlled medical terminology for example) that recognizes synonyms and other terminology related to terms provided to web agent 312. In the described embodiment. Web agent 312 creates a record containing data on matches found at a particular source, associated with paths to locate the source, and methods of how to get to the source. Web agents are software agents used to perform numerous functions, one of which is to seek (based on certain search criteria such as those described above) and record the location of data on the web and other data sources so that the data can be accessed easily at a later time. Most agents are able to access information from multiple sources including the Web. relational databases, ERP applications, legacy applications, and various file systems. Formats of data supported include HTML. XML. reports, tables. EDI. and application data streams. The use of software agents on the Web is well-known in the field of Internet programming. One third-party source for creating and implementing software agents is "ONDisplay" which provides the technology and consulting services for e-business portals. Information regarding "ONDisplay" and the use of agents can be found on the Internet at vvww.ondisplav.com/technoloay.

Agent 312 is instructed on which site(s) or source(s) to access and how to get there, what terms or strings to search for when at the site, and what functions to perform once at the site in addition to searching. Agent 312 goes to a Web site displaying an HTML page 316 having, in a simple example, a title 318 and a body 320, which are searched. If a term is found in title 318. document 316 is given a somewhat higher weight than if the term was only in body 320. Document 316 can be assigned other weights depending on the location and the frequency of which relevant terms appear in the document. As described above, the weights are used to determine how relevant a document is to a particular user.

Information from agent 312 is stored in a targeted knowledge base 322 maintained by the health information service provider. In the described embodiment, agent 312 retrieves the entire contents of documents it finds relevant based on its search. It retrieves and stores meta data on the information it finds such as instructions on how to access that site in the future and a brief description on what is available at that site that is relevant to at least one consumer using the services of the health information service provider. Knowledge base 322 can also be referred to as a Web knowledge base when most of the sites accessed are expected to be Web sites. Either way, knowledge base 322 contains, among other things, a hit list of CUIs and related terms found in documents searched by agents. FIG. 4 is a block diagram of components in an aggregate server maintained by the service provider in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. An aggregate server was first shown in FIG. 1 as server 104 through which information between client/users 108 and data sources, such as product/service providers 106. is shuttled. A CUI data repository 402 contains entries for CUIs including those from the UMLS database and those defined by the service provider. CUI data repository 402 can be seen as static data in that it generally does not change unless new CUIs are being added. Repository 402 contains a series of entries corresponding to each CUI. FIG. 5 is a block diagram of an entry for a CUI in repository 402 in the present invention. A record 502 includes at least three fields: a CUI number field 504. a semantic type field 506. and a text string field 508. CUI number field 504 contains a numeric identifier for a particular CUI. CUI identifiers may convey some meaning such as dosage in the case of a medication type CUI. Semantic type field 506 stores a type for the CUI. In the described embodiment, these types are defined by the service provider and include categories such as Medication. Device. Health Challenge, Lab, and so on. Each CUI has at least one type. These types can be used to instruct agents when visiting sites as described below. Text string field 508 contains a UMLS- defined text string or descriptor corresponding to the CUI. In the case of CUIs defined by the service provider, the text strings are also defined by the service provider in a manner resembling that ofthe UMLS text strings. For example, a text string for a medication CUI may be the name of the chemical compound for that medication.

Aggregate server 104 also contains a meta-knowledge base 404. This data repository contains data gathered solely from consumer input and experience and. as such, is dynamic in that it is nearly always changing. The primary reference data item is a numeric identifier corresponding to a consumer. Each consumer registered with the service provider has an entry in meta-knowledge base 404. The data contained here is used to create the vector and graph representations of the user profiles described above. Once a new consumer registers with the service provider, the consumer begins entering personal health and wellness related information to build a health profile. A unique user interface for entering this information is described below. A previously registered consumer can also change and enter new information over time. In the described embodiment, meta-knowledge base 404 stores consumer data in a collection of tables. Categories of data corresponding to these tables include medication, lab values, diet and exercise, physical characteristics, "feel good" factors (quality of life), health challenges, and so on. If a consumer does not enter any information in certain optional categories, such as medications or exercise habits, corresponding tables or specific fields will not be populated with data, which will not prevent the present invention from functioning. However, a new consumer is required to enter some basic information in order to register and have an entry in meta-knowledge base 404. Tables in meta-knowledge base 404 also contain various types of data relating to users in the form of comments or start and end dates used to calculate durations and create time lines.

Aggregate server 104 also contains a service provider vocabulary source 406 that contains strings related to the CUIs from the UMLS and those created by the service provider. These strings include user-friendly or layperson terms for CUIs and can be in different languages. In the described embodiment data repository 406 is a normalized relational database that is generally static. It is normalized to the static data in CUI repository 402. Data repository 406 contains a CUI numeric identifier identical in form to numeric identifier 504 of FIG. 5. For each CUI identifier is a list

n of related terms and synonyms. These are terms used by consumers to identify a "concept" and can vary from a widely-used name for a common drug to a name of a physical activity. Not all CUIs have to have an entry in repository 406. Those CUIs for which at least one consumer has entered an alternative or more user-friendly term will have an entry in repository 406.

An agent database 408 contains various information related to and retrieved by agents. A first portion of this information relates to the instruction and control of agents. In most cases, there are two types of agents for each site. A first agent goes to a site, retrieves resource locators, such as specific pages in a Web site, and brings them back to agent database 408 in aggregate server 104.

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of a process for retrieving resource locators using an agent in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The process assumes the site has its own search engine that can be used to identify pages. Whether a site has its own search capabilities is determined by the health information service provider before an agent for that site is created. If the site does not have a search engine, the agent is programmed by the service provider to perform a search using particular CUI terms or the search is done "manually" by an editor or appropriate individual at the service provider. That is. the editor goes through the site and determines which pages are relevant given one or more CUIs. At a step 602 an agent is programmed to go to a particular Web site or data repository accessible via the Internet at regular time intervals such as daily or weekly. In the described embodiment an agent is either a "shop" agent or a "learn" agent. A shop agent is typically programmed to go to sites daily to acquire information on prices, availability, new products, and similar information. Learn agents go to sites to

Z > acquire new information such as results of studies and the like, and may go to sites less frequently.

As mentioned above, it is assumed that these sites have resident search engines. At a step 604 the agent is populated with CUIs in a CUI table (i.e. a generic table or storage area capable of storing text strings). Which CUIs should go in the table is determined by the service provider when the site is initially examined. In some cases all of the CUIs can be used. Typically, a few CUIs or one CUI is chosen for a site. At a step 606 the agent is instructed to input the CUIs into a search box or search input area on a particular page at the site as determined by the service provider when initially examining the site. The specific location on the page can be determined using tags on the page and other techniques for this purpose well known in the field of Internet programming. This is generally reliable since the input area for the search engines at most Web sites does not change frequently. Once the input area is populated with the CUI search terms, the agent is instructed to execute the search by effectively pressing an "Enter" or "Begin Search" key. If a page changes in a way that effects an agent's instructions, such as moving the input area for the search engine or moving the search engine to a different page, the agent will come back with no results. This is normally a sufficient indication to the service provider that something is different about the site and it should be re-examined and the agent instructions may have to be corrected. In the described embodiment, a checksum in the agent is used to determine whether a site has been changed.

Once the search is complete, the agent is instructed to return the list of "hits" to the service provider and store them in agent database 408 at a step 608. In the described embodiment, the first agent does not go to the actual location of the hits. It most instances it brings back a list of URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) to the server, specifically agent database 408. One portion of agent database 408 consists of records matching resource locators, such as URLs, with CUIs. FIG. 7 is a block diagram of one type of entry in the agent database in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. A entry 702 consists of two sections: a single resource locator field 704 and a CUI field 706 for storing one or more corresponding CUIs. Each URL retrieved by the agents has a corresponding entry in agent database 408. Each URL must have at least one CUI which can be found at that page. Some pages may be relevant to more than one CUI and thus will have more than one CUI in field 706. Through this process, the service provider builds a list of pages where each page is relevant to at least one CUI. This list allows the service provider to measure how relevant a particular page is to a user. For example, if a user has only three CUIs in his profile and those three CUIs are associated with one particular page, the site containing that page is given a high relevance score for that user. Similarly, if a user has numerous CUIs in his profile and only two or three appear on a page, the site is given a relatively low relevance score for that user. A process for determining whether there are other CUIs that should be inserted in field 706 is described below with respect to a second agent.

Once a list of URLs is brought back by the first agent, a second agent uses the URLs to do a second search. The second agent goes to the actual pages at the sites as identified by the search performed by the first agent. That is. the second agents know exactly where to go to get relevant information. Once at the specific relevant pages, the second agent performs what is referred to as a Web "crawl." Web crawls are often performed by widely used search engines such as Alta Vista and HotBot. A Web crawl is a word-by- word search of a page or site for a given term or list of terms. In the present invention, the crawl performed by the second agent is contextualized in that the agent only performs the crawl in a relevant context, i.e.. only in those pages deemed relevant to at least one CUI in the system by the first agent. For example, a phrase such as "eating right" would probably by interpreted in many different ways and return thousands of sites. However, if the phrase is searched for within the context of a particular context or CUI. such as "diabetes," the data returned will very likely be more relevant to the consumer.

The second agent searches for a customized list of CUIs, CUIs of a certain type (e.g. Medication or Device), or all CUIs. In most cases, the list of CUIs for the second agent is much larger than the list (or one CUI) used by the first agent. In addition, the second agent can perform searches or crawls with instructions such as inclusion or exclusion of particular terms or phrases alone or in combination with CUIs. This type of customizing and programming of an agent is well known in the field of Internet programming. The second agent can add CUIs to field 706 of those URLs in agent database 408 as needed. That is. the search by the second agent, which includes a greater number of CUIs than the first agent search, may indicate that a specific URL is also relevant to other CUIs in the system. Those CUIs are identified by the second agent and added to the appropriate entries. As mentioned above, the CUIs searched by the second agent can be all inclusive or confined to certain types as deemed appropriate by the service provider.

In addition, both agents can bring back information other than URLs. In the described embodiment, items such as prices, titles of reports or articles, images of devices or medication, graphics relating to studies or experiments, can be transported back from sites by either of the agents. Generally, if a title or heading can be found at the same place at a site and is in the search result, the first agent can bring it back. More complex data such as images is brought back by the second agent. This information is also stored in agent database 408. Agents are instructed to bring back relevant information that may be useful to consumers. This information, as well as the resource locator and CUI list entries as shown in FIG. 7, is stored in a results portion of agent database 408.

In the described embodiment, another component in aggregate server 104 is a consumer usage database. This data repository contains data on the frequency and nature of consumers' interaction with the service provider. Typical data on how often a consumer uses the service provider's site, how often a consumer updates his or her profile, accesses sites, uses related services, and so on is stored in consumer usage database 410. Another component in server 104 is an application server 408 containing various client software modules such a browser program with certain user applications and housekeeping programs. Application server 408 can be a component in server 104 or can be on a separate server. FIGS 8a to 8d are screen shots of a user interface for use with a user health profile created and maintained by a service provider in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. A user can access medical, health, and wellness literature based on his or her profile using the described interface. FIG. 8a shows a screen through which a user can build or create a health profile. Typically, one of the first steps a user performs after registering with the service provider is entering health challenges. This semantic type is chosen by the user by clicking on box 800 containing "Challenges." Once chosen, a grid or table 802 appears in which the user can enter his or her various health challenges, such as HIV Infection. PCP, and Diarrhea shown in column 804. A user can also choose other categories such as Medications. Metrics. Diet, Nutritionals, and so on. shown on the left side of the screen. Some of these categories are other semantic types such as Diet, Medications. Vaccinations, etc. A user can enter a new health challenge following instructions and text entry field 806. As stated, a user can build a health profile using this screen plus others as needed by the particular user. As can be seen in table 802, the user can enter start and stop dates, level of severity, date of last assessment, and whether there are complications.

A user can also view graphs representing his user profile. FIG. 8b is a screen shot of various user graphs displayed to a user in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As shown in selection bar 808. a user can choose from "Favorite Graphs" "Summary Graph" and "Create a New Graph." Display area 810 shows a summary graph for a user. The user can also choose from "MY Graphs" "Community Knowledge" and "Reminders" as shown in selection bar 812. Shown at the top of display 810 is an area 814 showing horizontal bars where each bar represents a health challenge. The vertical dashed lines correspond to dates listed at the bottom of display area 810. The dates correspond to a choice made by the user from selection bar 816 where the user can select a time frame such as "Past 6 Months" "Past Year" "Past 18 Months" and so on. In the example shown, the user has selected "Past Year." In a preferred embodiment, the health challenges and metrics, shown in area 818. are color coded, and the medications, in area 820, are color coded back to the health challenges. That is, a red medication bar corresponds to a red health challenge bar. The graphs shown in area 818, such as a Viral Load graph 822, is generated upon creation or modification of the user's health profile. Graph 822 and any other graphs in area 818 are updated as adjustments are made to a user's health profile. At the bottom of display area 810 is an area 824 which shows the weight of the user. In other preferred embodiments, other types of information can be displayed graphically or in other forms in the different areas in display area 810.

FIG. 8c is a screen shot showing objective presentation of relevant content to a user in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As with the other screen shots, the user can make various selections. A selection bar 826 shows various categories of information a user can view, such as "Summaries & Reviews" "Current Research" Current News" and so on. The user has selected "Summaries & Reviews." In a selection bar 828 are two selections: "Retrieved Information" and "Edit Relevance." In another selection bar 830, the user can choose one of various options to be performed on a selected or highlighted entry, such as "Add to Favorites" "View" or "Print." By choosing "View" a user can go directly to the relevant page in the paper or article at the Web site from which the article was retrieved, but still be in the service provider's Web site. That is, in the described embodiment, the user will not have actually left the service provider. In a table or grid 832, information on various papers in the "Summaries & Reviews" category are displayed. Table 832 contains several columns of data such as Relevance Meter, Reason. Title. Source and so on. In the described embodiment, in a column 834. a relevance meter bar 836 provides a visual indication of how relevant a particular paper is to the user. The most relevant papers are listed first. In other preferred embodiments, other visual or textual aids can be used to convey similar information. In a column 838 the reasons why a particular paper is relevant to a user is listed, which typically includes one or more health challenges. The user can choose to view, print, or delete a given paper or entry using selection bar 830. In a column 840. the date a paper was changed is displayed. This is typically the date a software agent, as described above, will have gone out onto the Internet and retrieved the most recent version of the paper. FIG. 8d is a screen shot of objective personal comparison shopping data for a user in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. A selection bar 842 allows a user to choose "MY Supplies" "Health Services" or "General Shopping." In the example shown, the user has chosen "MY Supplies." Through a selection bar 844, the user can choose "MY Supply Register" or "Comparison

Shopping." The user has chosen "Comparison Shopping" in the example shown. In a table 846 is shown a list of drugs, medications, or other types of supplies for a user. In a column 848 is the "Supply Name." in this case the medication Indinavir. Table 846 shows where the drug can be obtained in a column 850 and price and quantity information. Table 846 can also show drugs that can be taken in place of a user's present supply or can show generic brands of the same drugs a user is presently taking. The comparison information is presented to the user in an objective and uncluttered way so the user can make a decision as to where to purchase the drug based on his needs. As with articles and literature, a user can go to the appropriate Web site for a particular drug and make a purchase if desired. The information shown here is retrieved using software agents on the Internet programmed by the service provider. The information is based on a user's health profile as was shown being created in FIG. 8a. The information can be displayed in various formats other than those shown in these figures. The formats can be changed without effecting how the data is retrieved and what the data is based on. The screen shots shown are only examples of how the data can be presented to a user.

The present invention employs various computer-implemented operations involving data stored in computer systems. These operations include, but are not limited to, those requiring physical manipulation of physical quantities. Usually, though not necessarily, these quantities take the form of electrical or magnetic signals capable of being stored, transferred, combined, compared, and otherwise manipulated. The operations described herein that form part of the invention are useful machine operations. The manipulations performed are often referred to in terms, such as, producing, identifying, running, determining, comparing, executing, downloading, or detecting. It is sometimes convenient, principally for reasons of common usage, to refer to these electrical or magnetic signals as bits, values, elements, variables, characters, data, or the like. It should remembered, however, that all of these and similar terms are to be associated with the appropriate physical quantities and are merely convenient labels applied to these quantities. The present invention also relates to a device, system or apparatus for performing the aforementioned operations. The system may be specially constructed for the required purposes, or it may be a general purpose computer selectively activated or configured by a computer program stored in the computer. The processes presented above are not inherently related to any particular computer or other computing apparatus. In particular, various general-purpose computers may be used with programs written in accordance with the teachings herein, or. alternatively, it may be more convenient to construct a more specialized computer system to perform the required operations.

FIG. 9 is a block diagram of a general purpose computer system 900 suitable for carrying out the processing in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 9 illustrates one embodiment of a general purpose computer system. Other computer system architectures and configurations can be used for carrying out the processing ofthe present invention. Computer system 900. made up of various subsystems described below, includes at least one microprocessor subsystem (also referred to as a central processing unit, or CPU) 902. That is, CPU 902 can be implemented by a single-chip processor or by multiple processors. It should be noted that in re-configurable computing systems, CPU 902 can be distributed amongst a group of programmable logic devices. In such a system, the programmable logic devices can be reconfigured as needed to control the operation of computer system 900. In this way. the manipulation of input data is distributed amongst the group of programmable logic devices. CPU 902 is a general purpose digital processor which controls the operation of the computer system 900. Using instructions retrieved from memory, the CPU 902 controls the reception and manipulation of input data, and the output and display of data on output devices. CPU 902 is coupled bi-directionally with a first primary storage 904, typically a random access memory (RAM), and uni-directionally with a second primary storage area 906, typically a read-only memory (ROM), via a memory bus 908. As is well known in the art. primary storage 904 can be used as a general storage area and as scratch-pad memory, and can also be used to store input data and processed data. It can also store programming instructions and data, in the form of graphs, tables, CUI libraries, and web knowledge bases in addition to other data and instructions for processes operating on CPU 902. and is used typically used for fast transfer of data and instructions in a bi-directional manner over the memory bus 908. Also as well known in the art. primary storage 906 typically includes basic operating instructions, program code, data and objects used by the CPU 902 to perform its functions.

Primary storage devices 904 and 906 may include any suitable computer-readable storage media, described below, depending on whether, for example, data access needs to be bi-directional or uni-directional. CPU 902 can also directly and very rapidly retrieve and store frequently needed data in a cache memory 910. A removable mass storage device 912 provides additional data storage capacity for the computer system 900, and is coupled either bi-directionally or uni- directionally to CPU 902 via a peripheral bus 914. For example, a specific removable mass storage device commonly known as a CD-ROM typically passes data uni- directionally to the CPU 902, whereas a floppy disk can pass data bi-directionally to the CPU 902. Storage 912 may also include computer-readable media such as magnetic tape, flash memory, signals embodied on a carrier wave, PC-CARDS, portable mass storage devices, holographic storage devices, and other storage devices. A fixed mass storage 916 also provides additional data storage capacity and is coupled bi-directionally to CPU 902 via peripheral bus 914. The most common example of mass storage 916 is a hard disk drive. Generally, access to these media is slower than access to primary storages 904 and 906.

Mass storage 912 and 916 generally store additional programming instructions, data, and the like that typically are not in active use by the CPU 902. It will be appreciated that the information retained within mass storage 912 and 916 may be incorporated, if needed, in standard fashion as part of primary storage 904 (e.g. RAM) as virtual memory.

In addition to providing CPU 902 access to storage subsystems, the peripheral bus 914 is used to provide access other subsystems and devices as well. In the described embodiment, these include a display monitor 918 and adapter 920, a printer device 922, a network interface 924. an auxiliary input/output device interface 926. a sound card 928 and speakers 930. and other subsystems as needed.

The network interface 924 allows CPU 902 to be coupled to another computer, computer network, or telecommunications network using a network connection as shown. Through the network interface 924. it is contemplated that the CPU 902 might receive information, e.g., data objects or program instructions, from another network, or might output information to another network in the course of performing the above-described method steps. Information, often represented as a sequence of instructions to be executed on a CPU. may be received from and outputted to another network, for example, in the form of a computer data signal embodied in a carrier wave. An interface card or similar device and appropriate software implemented by CPU 902 can be used to connect the computer system 900 to an external network and transfer data according to standard protocols. That is. method embodiments of the present invention may execute solely upon CPU 902, or may be performed across a network such as the Internet, intranet networks, or local area networks, in conjunction with a remote CPU that shares a portion of the processing. Additional mass storage devices (not shown) may also be connected to CPU 902 through network interface 924.

Auxiliary I/O device interface 926 represents general and customized interfaces that allow the CPU 902 to send and. more typically, receive data from other devices such as microphones, touch-sensitive displays, transducer card readers, tape readers, voice or handwriting recognizers, biometrics readers, cameras, portable mass storage devices, and other computers.

Also coupled to the CPU 902 is a keyboard controller 932 via a local bus 934 for receiving input from a keyboard 936 or a pointer device 938. and sending decoded symbols from the keyboard 936 or pointer device 938 to the CPU 902. The pointer device may be a mouse, stylus, track ball, or tablet, and is useful for interacting with a graphical user interface.

In addition, embodiments of the present invention further relate to computer storage products with a computer readable medium that contain program code for performing various computer-implemented operations. The computer-readable medium is any data storage device that can store data which can thereafter be read by a computer system. The media and program code may be those specially designed and constructed for the purposes of the present invention, or they may be of the kind well known to those of ordinary skill in the computer software arts. Examples of computer-readable media include, but are not limited to. all the media mentioned above: magnetic media such as hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tape; optical media such as CD-ROM disks; magneto-optical media such as floptical disks; and specially configured hardware devices such as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), programmable logic devices (PLDs). and ROM and RAM devices. The computer-readable medium can also be distributed as a data signal embodied in a carrier wave over a network of coupled computer systems so that the computer- readable code is stored and executed in a distributed fashion. Examples of program code include both machine code, as produced, for example, by a compiler, or files containing higher level code that may be executed using an interpreter.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the above described hardware and software elements are of standard design and construction. Other computer systems suitable for use with the invention may include additional or fewer subsystems. In addition, memory bus 908, peripheral bus 914, and local bus 934 are illustrative of any interconnection scheme serving to link the subsystems. For example, a local bus could be used to connect the CPU to fixed mass storage 916 and display adapter 920. The computer system shown in FIG. 9 is but an example of a computer system suitable for use with the invention. Other computer architectures having different configurations of subsystems may also be utilized. Although the foregoing invention has been described in some detail for purposes of clarity of understanding, it will be apparent that certain changes and modifications may be practiced within the scope of the appended claims. Furthermore, it should be noted that there are alternative ways of implementing both the process and apparatus of the present invention. Accordingly, the present embodiments are to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not to be limited to the details given herein, but may be modified within the scope and equivalents of the appended claims.

Claims

CLAIMSWhat is claimed is:
1. A method of gathering health and medical information for a consumer based on a health profile of the consumer, the method comprising: accessing a health profile associated with a consumer, the health profile having a plurality of events reflecting health, medical, and wellness characteristics of the consumer; retrieving information relevant to the consumer based on the health profile from a plurality of external sources at predetermined time intervals; and displaying the relevant information through a user interface in a manner that allows efficient evaluation of the information and wherein the health profile can be modified through the user interface.
2. A method as recited in claim 1 further comprising gathering data from the plurality of external sources including web servers containing health, medical and wellness data.
3. A method as recited in claim 1 further comprising assigning a unique identifier to the health profile.
4. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein an event is defined as a concept unique identifier (CUI).
5. A method as recited in claim 4 further comprising appending a first plurality of CUIs with a second plurality of CUIs. wherein the first plurality of CUIs is derived from the Universal Medical Language System (UMLS).
6. A method as recited in claim 4 wherein a health profile is a vector of medical concepts and health concepts relevant to the consumer.
7. A method as recited in claim 6 wherein the CUIs in the vector can have an associated weight value.
8. A method as recited in claim 7 further comprising determining the weight value by analyzing decisions and preferences of the consumer.
9. A method as recited in claim 7 further comprising determining the weight value by analyzing decisions and preferences of other consumers.
10. A method as recited in claim 1 further comprising creating a health profile associated with the consumer by collecting health and wellness information from the consumer.
1 1. A method as recited in claim 10 further comprising selecting medical concepts and health concepts from a plurality of medical concepts and health concepts.
12. A method as recited in claim 1 further comprising representing a health profile as a graph having a plurality of nodes, the nodes connected by edges.
13. A method as recited in claim 12 further comprising representing a health profile as a set of graphs.
14. A method as recited in claim 1 1 further comprising associating medical concepts and health concepts with a plurality of synonyms.
15. A method as recited in claim 14 further comprising providing a software agent with a plurality of synonyms corresponding to medical concepts and health concepts.
16. A method as recited in claim 15 further comprising providing the software agents with a list of one or more sources of information.
17. A method as recited in claim 16 wherein the software agent searches the plurality of external sources based on the plurality of synonyms.
18. A method as recited in claim 17 further comprising the software agent creating a record having match data, path data, and access data associated with an external source of information.
19. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein retrieving relevant information further comprising selecting the plurality of external sources on the Internet wherein an external source is a web site that has been evaluated.
20. A method as recited in claim 15 further comprising the software agent storing meta information on the relevant information in a targeted knowledge base under the control of a service provider.
21. A method as recited in claim 1 further comprising determining resource locators at an external source comprising: programming a software agent to go to a web site; populating the software agent with a subset of the plurality of events; using the subset of the plurality of events to retrieve information at the web site; and storing meta information from the web site on a server maintained by a service provider.
22. A system for storing and routing health-related information for a consumer, the system communicating with a plurality of external information sources and a consumer destination, the system comprising: a concept identifier repository storing entries for a plurality of concept identifiers; a meta-knowledge base containing consumer input data; a user interface component for accepting user input and displaying health- related information; a vocabulary source containing a plurality of strings related to the plurality of concept identifiers: and a software agent database containing information on the instruction and control of software agents and search-related data retrieved by the software agents.
23. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein the concept identifier repository stores concept unique identifiers (CUIs) defined by the Universal Medical Language System (UMLS) and by a service provider.
24. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein an entry in the concept identifier repository includes a unique identifier for the concept identifier, a semantic type, and a text string.
25. A system as recited in claim 24 wherein the text string is one of a UMLS- defined descriptor and a service provider-defined descriptor corresponding to a concept identifier.
26. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein the meta-knowledge base further comprises a collection of tables.
27. A system as recited in claim 26 wherein each consumer has an entry in the meta-knowledge base.
28. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein consumer input data includes consumer experience data.
29. A system as recited in claim 22 further comprising a plurality of graphs representing a plurality of user health profiles.
30. A system as recited in claim 29 wherein consumer input data is used to create the plurality of graphs.
31. A system as recited in claim 22 further comprising a plurality of first software agents for retrieving resource locators from an external information source having specific pages.
32. A system as recited in claim 31 further comprising a plurality of second software agents for gathering information.
33. A system as recited in claim 32 wherein a second software agent performs a web crawl on a specific page.
34. A system as recited in claim 22 further comprising a consumer usage database storing frequency data and interaction data of a plurality of consumers.
35. A system as recited in claim 22 further comprising an application server containing a plurality of client software modules including a browser program.
36. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein the user interface component further comprises a profile creation display component for entering health, medical, and wellness information.
37. A system as recited in claim 36 further comprising a table input area in which specific health challenges can be entered.
38. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein the user interface component further comprises a graph display component for displaying graphs associated with the consumer and for creating additional graphs.
39. A system as recited in claim 38 wherein various segments of the graphs are color coded.
40. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein the user interface component further comprises a relevant content listing component displaying meta-data on various categories of information including a relevance indicator for a content listing.
41. A system as recited in claim 22 wherein the user interface component further comprises a purchasing information display component for displaying data relating to goods and services.
42. A computer-readable medium containing programmed instructions arranged to gather health and medical information for a consumer based on a health profile of the consumer, the computer-readable medium including programmed instructions for: accessing a health profile associated with a consumer, the health profile having a plurality of events reflecting health, medical, and wellness characteristics of the consumer; retrieving information relevant to the consumer based on the health profile from a plurality of external sources at predetermined time intervals; and displaying the relevant information through a user interface in a manner that allows efficient evaluation of the information and wherein the health profile can be modified through the user interface.
PCT/US2000/026455 1999-09-28 2000-09-26 Internet brokering service based upon individual health profiles WO2001024038A2 (en)

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