Privacy Protector Tomorrow’s Care

Kepler Vision Technologies CEO Harro Stokman wrote an article for Tomorrow’s Care.

Privacy Protector

Dedicated monitoring solutions that look after the wellbeing of residents and enshrine their privacy are the future of the care industry, explains Dr Harro Stokman, CEO of Kepler Vision.

Technology is often seen as a way to mitigate the challenges posed by the care sector staffing crisis – reducing admin, bureaucracy and cutting out meaningless tasks to help care staff focus on providing actual care. Solutions that can rebalance in-person care have proven to be extremely useful across a range of use cases but, as with any technology that relies on personal data to function optimally, these solutions raise significant concerns around resident, staff and institutional privacy. Balancing utility with maintaining privacy is now an important feature of the care home space, and one which needs to be considered regularly for the sake of everyone involved.


When taking care of residents, ensuring privacy while guaranteeing 24-hour care is a difficult task, especially at night when staffing numbers are lower. Any behaviour that could require immediate assistance is of paramount importance, such as residents falling while alone in their room, being unable to rise from their beds, or spending long periods of time in the bathroom, (which could indicate an accident). But at night, residents will also get up, move around or use the bathroom without needing, or wanting, to be disturbed.


Years ago, it would have been the norm for staff to perform checks on residents by entering their rooms at night to assess if they need assistance. This not only violated patients’ privacy, but it was also time consuming for staff, having to check on residents of which the vast majority did not need help. More recently the move to motion detectors and sensor pads reduced the need to patrol individual rooms but, as these systems cannot differentiate between a patient in distress and a patient simply moving in their sleep, they produce a huge number of false alarms. False alarms that staff still need to respond to – a negative interaction for all parties.


It is generally very difficult to monitor residents in the long term without disturbing them or violating their privacy. On a basic level, no-one likes being observed or monitored all of the time, even when it serves a positive purpose. Privacy is something that most of us take for granted when we’re healthy enough to lead independent lives in our own homes, but this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to privacy concerns in care homes. For instance, staff don’t like to feel as though they are always being watched and monitored either. Yet with motion detection systems and CCTV their every movement can be scrutinised by observers, often stripped of context if viewed in isolation.


On an organisational level, privacy concerns also encompass issues like personal data leaks, which can be immensely damaging. Something as simple as sharing a video of a patient experiencing difficulty can be jobthreatening for staff and organisations if this is done outside of the proper channels. While regulations vary from country to country and organisation to organisation, privacy issues around something as sensitive as a resident’s personal information and wellbeing are a thorny issue.


The crux of the matter is working out how to monitor the wellbeing of patients, while guaranteeing them, the care staff and the organisation’s data, complete privacy. Luckily there are a number of technological solutions that care homes can adopt to improve their residents’ quality of life and boost their feelings of privacy and independence.


Contrary to popular belief, CCTV cameras working alongside technology that monitors residents’ behaviour in their rooms gives them more privacy, not less. Sophisticated AI computer vision technology can eliminate the need for staff to physically check in on residents, and the need to actually view footage at all – instead, the AI software detects problems and only alerts nurses if the residents’ behaviour is unusual or a cause for concern. This means that residents can sleep through the night without repeated interruptions, while being guaranteed immediate assistance if something goes wrong.


Dedicated monitoring solutions that look after the wellbeing of residents and enshrine their privacy, all the while protecting staff and any sensitive data are surely the future of the care industry. On a macro level, many of the laws around data protection do much to guarantee organisations privacy (for example, preventing leaks), but it is down to the organisations themselves to make sure personal privacy and dignity is maintained. With the care home staffing crisis still ongoing, and the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic likely to reverberate for years to come, now is the time for technologically advanced solutions to fill the gap, so that we can continue providing the highest standard of care possible.


This article is also available in the magazine of Tomorrow’s Care