May 11, 2023, marked the end of the Covid Public Health Emergency (PHE). The conclusion…
The future of long-term care (LTC) for older adults may rely heavily on artificial intelligence (AI). The increasing relevance and adoption of AI have sparked debate over whether introducing it to healthcare technologies is ethical.
How can AI Technologies in LTC be Addressed Responsibly?
AI technologies use a set of defined objectives to make predictions, recommendations, or decisions to perform tasks such as image, speech and pattern recognition, and natural language processing. They can use pre-programmed or self-learning algorithms to execute activities.
In LTC, AI is designed to improve remote monitoring systems, support decision-making software, automated communications, and virtual assistants interacting with older adults and their caregivers. Monitoring systems can be programmed to evaluate actions such as lying, sitting, standing, and walking to predict potential risks that suggest declining mental or physical health.
More Safety, Less Privacy
Automated alerts sent to the older person or their caregiver may ensure timely care to prevent further problems and delay or avoid the need for a nursing home facility. This should inspire a greater sense of safety and well-being. However, it also affects privacy, dignity, autonomy, and trust concerning care.
The adoption of AI in LTC has sparked an ethical debate. While the use of AI can lead to more effective and efficient decisions, it can also lead to harmful consequences when finding the proper solution for specific problems, defining the need for medical treatment, and stigmatizing old age, not to mention the danger of depersonalizing and dehumanizing care. Innovators, users, and stakeholders must look at the social and ethical consequences of AI technologies for older people, their environment, and society. Would we feel comfortable using AI technology for LTC for ourselves, parents, and grandparents? If a skilled nursing facility replaced a portion of its staff with AI-powered monitoring systems, would we feel secure about the quality of our loved one’s healthcare experience?
Frameworks, Principles, and Guidelines for Responsible AI Innovation
Studies highlight the importance of high-level principles, such as transparency, justice, fairness, and quality of care. Problems arise when there is too much room for interpretation to determine proper and ethical LTC uses. It’s unclear how AI design in LTC will continue to unfold. We still need more studies evaluating the potential risks and impact of AI technologies used by older adults and their caregivers. Technology is advancing rapidly, but we must take the time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Adopting it too quickly and relying on it too heavily initially could have severe consequences.
If you have any questions regarding what you have read, please contact our office to speak with an elder law attorney. We are happy to help you evaluate in-home, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities in your area to ensure you or a loved one are getting the care you need and deserve.