Government regulators might start policing personal monitoring devices

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The government is keeping a watchful eye on personal monitoring devices and may soon regulate them due to privacy concerns and accuracy claims, consumer advocates and tech gurus recently predicted at a specialty tech forum.

The news could give long-term care administrators pause, given the explosion of wearable tech gadgets and mobile devices being used to monitor residents' vital signs, movements and security in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other settings.

Agencies such as the FDA and Federal Trade Commission may one day take the lead to ensure device and app developers make honest claims about accuracy and how data they collect is used and secured, forum panelists told Bloomberg News. The forum was sponsored Wednesday by Politico and Philips, a technology company with a large healthcare presence.

Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, told the news service certain employers could potentially use monitoring data to disqualify an employee for a promotion. While implications for patients weren't specifically addressed, it's easy to see how the specter of regulations would concern nursing home administrators.

Devices such as neck pendants and watches typically use Wi-Fi or cellular connections to upload monitoring data to tablets or desktops for users, and sanctioned providers or caregivers. And while technology has made monitoring more passive and discreet, some residents still consider it intrusive, and at times, demeaning, observers have told McKnight's. Most passive wearable tech doesn't have microphones or cameras, but that's not enough to allay privacy concerns, which have been escalating in long-term care, especially for dementia and memory-deficient residents.