Care Home Celebration Day: a Technology Charter to protect care home residents

Scottish Care CEO Dr Donald Macaskill reflects on the opportunities and challenges for technology in care homes #carehomecelebration19


A Technology Charter to protect care home residents

Last week’s issue of the technology magazine, Computer Weekly, carried a lead story about how AI may be a solution to the social care crisis but that there were legal considerations. 

Since Scottish Care published our TechRights report in 2018 on the need to establish clear human rights and ethical frameworks for the use of technology and digital in older people’s care and support, there has been a growing discussion and awareness of the centrality of these issues. 


There is undeniably immense potential in the use of AI and robotics in care homes. In the midst of what is often described as a crisis over workforce recruitment and retention in Scotland as well as across the United Kingdom– with 9 out of 10 providers struggling to fill jobs, and nearly a quarter of care home staff leaving their roles each year, it is understandable that many might view technology and data as some sort of salvation and panacea. 


Our TechRights report last year mentioned the collaboration between the University of Bedfordshire and Advinia Health Care in a £2.5m European Union (EU)-funded trial using humanoid companions in care homes. The 4ft tall robot, known as Pepper, was designed by Softbank Robotics in Japan and is intended to interact with residents.  


‘Over time, the robot learns residents’ favourite music, videos and games. It can hold a conversation and, using facial recognition software, can identify whether a person is interested in a topic or change it – adapting to the needs of the resident. 

And if the robot companions can successfully recognise a person in distress, they will be able to alert a care worker.’ 


On one level there is a clear benefit between such uses of AI, smart technology in individual homes and the use of virtual reality aids and so on. 


In a not unrelated story last week we have learnt that Amazon is partnering with the NHS in England and Wales to stream the health service's advice already available online through Alexa but using voice. But what on the surface might appear to be positive  progress has not been received without concern and alarm in some quarters.  


Because at the same time as these stories of innovation are gaining prominence so too are stories which are calling into question issues of privacy and data control.  


Facebook is facing an unprecedented fine of nearly £5 billion pounds for breaches in data privacy; there are concerns that home based smart devices are recording and listening into conversations, and there is a growing cynicism around the control of personal data by what are essentially sales organisations like Google and Amazon.  


Scottish Care is convinced that the progress and potential of technology and robotics in care homes and elsewhere will not be maximised unless we increase public confidence and assure citizens about the fundamental protection of their rights. 


To that end, with other stakeholders, we have been working on a Human Rights Charter for Technology and Digital in older people’s care and support. This Charter seeks to not only continue the conversation but ensure that from design, development through to implementation and use that technologies seek to serve and enhance the rights and dignity of older individuals, especially in care home environments 


We will be launching the Charter at our TechCare2 event in Glasgow on 23rd August. This event brings together in workshop and discussion format designers, policy specialists, practitioners and technologists. Come and join us at the event and share with others both the potential and the challenges of technology and digital the care and support which care homes deliver. 






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