Bradley attorney Alé Dalton was quoted in McKnight’s Business Daily discussing the challenges senior living and care operators are facing developing policies for virtual assistants that are consistent with federal and state privacy laws.
Dalton said, “We have a lot of health system clients that are trying to regulate these types of devices.”
Bradley, she said, is seeing the need for policies regulating such devices “popping up more and more,” and facilities don’t know where to get started.
Residents saw the emergence of virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices and Facebook’s Portal, become increasingly popular since the pandemic, helping them stay connected with their loved ones, feel less isolated and even promote a certain amount of independence.
“It really became something that families were being encouraged to by folks providing long-term care and elder care as an option, to have access to be able to drop in to their family member’s room to either have a conversation or be able to check in on them and maybe keep a little bit more of an eye since they couldn’t go inside the facility,” she said.
While some residential care facilities provide virtual assistance devices to residents, she said legal issues are brought up if the person needs any sort of accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Many states are coming up with patchwork between federal and state [regulations]. Dalton said, “I think we’ll see it more and more.”
For example, Virginia recently adopted legislation that directs the state Department of Health to establish regulations requiring hospitals, nursing homes and certified nursing facilities to implement policies that ensure patient access to what they called “intelligent personal assistants” while protecting their Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rights, she added.
Some states also already have existing robust privacy or elder care laws.
“There is no one-size-fits-all virtual assistant policy, and the complexities of these considerations will continue to evolve as more states begin to regulate the use of virtual assistants in healthcare spaces, not just for long-term care facilities,” Dalton wrote in a previous article published in The National Law Review.
The original article, “Operators need virtual assistant policies to navigate ‘patchwork’ of federal, state laws,” was published in McKnight’s Business Daily on October 7, 2021.