GPS

Blog: Aging Adults and Technology

by Morgan Ackerman, Managing Editor

 

Admittedly aging adults is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the intersection of law and technology. However, there have been many recent technological advancements to aid aging adults and their caregivers. These advancements are aimed to both enable seniors to live at-home longer, and to help their caregivers.[1]

            Some of these advancements include Smartphone applications that help track medications[2], GPS trackers to monitor aging adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia[3], sensors, skin detectors, and social interaction tools.[4] All of these new technologies are making it possibly for many seniors to live independently, and for those caring for seniors, to better care for them. Along with these life enhancing, and life saving technologies comes potential legal ramifications. 

            The Supreme Court recently ruled that placing a GPS tracker on a car is considered a search under the 4th Amendment.[5]  Police will now need to obtain a warrant to lawfully place a GPS tracker on cars of criminal suspects. The court’s ruling leaves open the question of whether individuals can place GPS trackers on others. Private investigators have used the term “electronic stalking” when referring to the misuse of GPS trackers, and this is a serious concern surrounding GPS trackers.[6]

             In the context of aging adults, the use of GPS trackers to monitor seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia seems to be a gray area. Likely, individuals tracking these adults are family or medical professionals that have gained consent to track individuals. However, this technology has an extraordinary potential for abuse and has yet to be regulated.

            Smartphone applications that help track medications may be the targets of medical malpractice lawsuits.[7]  Currently, Apple’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement indemnifies Apple from liability for all iPhone applications, and places liability on the individual developers.[8] The potential that these medicine-tracking apps could have a glitch, or malfunction is high. A glitch or a malfunction could seriously harm a person relying on the app. The potential harm on the elderly population, that might solely rely on the app to remind them to take their medication, could have an even greater harm. With Apple’s indemnity clause, this leaves the Smartphone application developers liable. There has yet to be a medical malpractice case for medical Smartphone apps, but medical malpractice experts and the FDA foresee this scenario arising.

            Given the reality of such problems the FDA recently issued final rules on the development of medical Smartphone applications.[9] However, the FDA did not issue regulations of medicine reminders, caloric in-take, heart monitors, etc. leaving these types of medical apps unregulated.

            Overall, the implications of modern technology that aids the aging populations are positive, but the legal consequences should be kept in mind.

 




[1] Mario Sollitto, Technology for Elderly Enhances Health, Safety, Agingcare.com, http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/techology-for-elderly-living-at-home-147427.htm   Technology for Elderly Enhances Health, Safety Agingcare.com.

[2] MedCoach Medication Reminder, itunes.com, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/medcoach-medication-reminder/id443065594?mt=8.

[3]Elderly & Special Needs GPS Tracking, Brick House Security, http://www.brickhousesecurity.com/category/gps+tracking/elderly+care+gps+tracking+products.do.

[4] Mario Sollitto, Technology for Elderly Enhances Health, Safety, Agingcare.com

[5] United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. ____, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012); see also Adam Liptak, Police use of GPS is Ruled Unconstitutional, NYTimes.com,

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/24/us/police-use-of-gps-is-ruled-unconstitutional.html.

[6] Id.

[7] Satish Misra, iPhone Medical Apps Medical May Be Targets of Medical Malpractice, KevinMD.com, http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2010/04/iphone-medical-apps-medical-malpractice-targets.html.

[8] Id.

[9] Melissa Gall, FDA Announces Regulations of Medical Smartphone Apps, Locum Tenens Daily, http://www.locumtenensdaily.com/fda-announces-regulations-of-medical-smartphone-apps/.

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