MMRGlobal heading down under

The US company that is claiming the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) may have infringed on its patents for personal electronic health records is planning a trip to Australia, announcing it had retained a local legal firm to represent its interests.

MMRGlobal has launched legal action against a number of companies in the US, including pharmacy giant Walgreens, popular health information website WebMD, diagnostic testing service Quest Diagnostics and most recently filed a complaint for patent infringement against Jardogs, a subsidiary of global EMR vendor Allscripts.

In February, MMRGlobal announced it was investigating an alleged infringement of two of its patents by the Australian federal and state governments, through NEHTA, in the creation of the PCEHR.

The company also announced it had spoken to certain vendors working with the Singapore Ministry of Health, which is building its own electronic health record system.

A spokesperson for NEHTA told Pulse+IT that “as a result of the allegation made by MMRGlobal in the press in early February this year that NEHTA may be infringing upon two of MMRGlobal’s Australian patents, NEHTA undertook a thorough investigation of the relevant patents”.

“That investigation has revealed, as expected, that there is and has been no infringement by NEHTA,” the spokesperson said. “NEHTA now intends to put this claim behind it and move on with implementing the national eHealth agenda.”

According to a posting on MMRGlobal’s Facebook page, the company's CEO Bob Lorsch and marketing partner Kurt Benjamin recently met with Titus Day, founder of Australian sports and entertainment management company 6 Degrees Management, for “a weekend planning meeting in advance of scheduled AU government meetings in June”.

Mr Day's company represents the pop singer Guy Sebastian, who according to MMRGlobal “was planning on working with MMR to call attention to the importance of having a personal health record with the understanding that MMR would contribute a portion of its Australian revenues” to a charitable foundation that Mr Sebastian was apparently setting up, “or to any other charity specified by Sebastian”.

Asked whether he was planning the trip for meetings with NEHTA, Mr Lorsch told Pulse+IT that he “would prefer not to comment at this time until travel plans are firmed up over the next week”.

Yesterday, the company announced that it had retained the services of legal firm Rockwell Olivier to represent it in Australia. “Rockwell Olivier will join MMRGlobal CEO Robert H. Lorsch in July for licensing meetings in Australia,” a company statement said.

“The firm will also represent MMR in respect to the impasse concerning the possible exploitation of the company's MyMedicalRecords health IT patents and intellectual property by NEHTA and others.”

As reported by Pulse+IT in February, Mr Lorsch wanted to meet with Australian government representatives at the HIMSS conference in New Orleans in March, saying it would be “a good time to break bread, eat gumbo and try to get this resolved”.

While it is understood no Australian government representatives had met with Mr Lorsch at HIMSS, he was interviewed for a video for EHRtv, in which he explained the essentials of the company's patents and how he intended to protect them.

“When the company was founded in 2005, I coming from a telecommunications background firmly believed in standardisation, began to look at the industry and despite the talk about standardisation, I didn't believe it,” he said.

“The one standardisation that we have in this world that anyone can connect to is the telephone. Essentially, we assigned as an identifier to our patients a lifeline telephone number – a toll free or DID telephone number – that a patient can use to identify themselves to a physician and give to a physician where the physician can tell their EMR to electronically send information to that number or can tell their nurse practitioner to fax information to their number, or they can phone their number or they can email the patient a document that the patient can upload to their account from their secure email.”

In a Facebook post, Mr Lorsch said that shortly after the company started receiving its United States patents, “it began contacting hospitals and healthcare providers suggesting they may be infringing and offering the possibility of entering into licensing agreements for the company’s patent portfolio.

“We have contacted hundreds of hospitals and will continue to do so. This is an especially attractive opportunity because there are well over 5000 potential licensees, many that we believe could be or will be infringing on our patents,” he wrote.

“As a result of contacting the hospitals, many contacted their EMR vendors including McKesson, Meditech and others asking them to help resolve this on their behalf. That opened the door to what the company would call meaningful discussions with at least five of the top ten EMR providers who we have actively been communicating with and plan on meeting over the [northern hemisphere] summer.”

Mr Lorsch told EHRtv that he expects MMRGlobal to evolve “into a very large provider of patient information through our licensed portal or we will evolve into a company that basically works with very large players in the EMR business and leverages our technology to make their personal health record services better, which is kind of like the win-win that we were looking for in the beginning".

“The purpose of these patents is not to go out and collect licence fees and royalties, although that's the way the licensing business works,” he said.

“It was to build a barrier to entry so that we can compete in the market against these very, very large, well-financed companies, and this is the one competitive advantage that we think we have in terms of positioning ourselves in the market as an important player and someone that needs to be looked at.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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