Opt-in Nursing Home Surveillance: Good Idea or Bad idea?

Surveillance Cameras. They’re everywhere. On the streets of our cities. In the stores where we shop. In the bars and restaurants that we frequent. Soon they’ll be on every police officer on his or her beat. Now, Assembly Speaker Prieto wants to put them in our nursing homes as well.

Today, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee moved Prieto’s bill (A3883) that would allow nursing home residents or their legally designated guardian to monitor the activities in the resident’s room using electronic surveillance. The idea is to reduce abuse and give family members peace of mind that their loved one is being cared for correctly.

The proposed bill contains some safeguards such as requiring permission of roommates for the installation of monitoring devices, and imposing civil penalties on anyone who abuses the recorded data.

At today’s hearing, most of the testimony came from representatives of organizations opposing the bill in its present form. Unions and nursing home management organizations brought up concerns about abuse of the data, potential HPPA violations, and the reluctance of nursing home staff to speak openly and frankly if they know their conversations are being recorded. On the other side, a lobbyist for AARP spoke in favor of the bill, saying it gives families a choice in how they can proceed with care for their loved ones.

Although the bill passed the committee on party lines (Democrats for it, Republicans against), the Democrats indicated there needed to be some tweaks to the bill before it is brought to the full Assembly. The Republicans felt the bill was unnecessary and would prefer to let market forces weed out potential abuse, but said they were willing to work toward a bill that would be more palatable to them.

Currently, four states (NM, OK, TX, and WA) allow residents to opt-in to video surveillance in their rooms, with similar bills under consideration in other states.

Is the potential misuse of some very personal video worth the assurance of abuse-free care? If this bill is passed, does it lead us down the road to allowing patients to opt for video surveillance in their doctors’ office or other very private venues? What do you think?

Comments (3)

  1. Rosi Efthim

    I’d have to give this some more thought, and I’d be interested in more specific abuses that opposition can cite. But I think in matters of safety, and fair and healthy treatment of a vulnerable population, I’m in favor of safeguards for that population.

    If there are states with this kind of legislation in place, I would think unions and others against it would be able to point to very specific incidents of abuse of the resulting data, images etc.

    The “let market forces decide” argument leaves me cold. The marketplace is full of nursing homes that don’t treat their charges well, and families often don’t find that out until it’s too late. If ever there was an industry where oversight – even literal oversight with cameras – is worth considering, it’s that which cares for fragile elders.  

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  2. dbkurz415

    Using the same logic as this bill, could the legislature then demand that parents receive live feed from their children’s classrooms?  

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