An independent evaluation of a trial of a video and audio surveillance system in residential aged care in South Australia has found that it “did not achieve the aspirations held for it.”
Although the artificial intelligence monitoring technology used in the pilot scheme had a number of blind spots and a level of inaccuracy that sparked a “high rate” of false alerts, the scheme has received in-principle agreement from residents, families and staff involved in the evaluation.
The evaluation report – conducted on behalf of SA Health by PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting – found that: “Whilst the accuracy of the system improved over time (as it was designed to), over the 12 months it did not achieve a level that would be considered acceptable to staff and management at the sites.”
As reported by Australian Ageing Agenda, the CCTV Pilot Project was beset by problems since the start of the trial in March 2021.
Developed to explore the acceptability and viability of using surveillance and monitoring within residential care settings, the 12-month trial – conducted at two SA facilities, Mount Pleasant Aged Care and Northgate House – used an AI-based technology system to detect falls, acts of violence, calls for help and other incidents.
Audio and visual activity was captured in residents’ bedrooms, and indoor and outdoor common areas. Text-message warnings were then sent to an independent remote monitoring centre responsible for alerting the sites
In designing the pilot program, SA Health made conscious decisions about how to protect the dignity and privacy of residents and staff. For example:
- recording devices were installed in common rooms and bedrooms and not in bathrooms
- recording devices in bedrooms were switched on only with the consent of residents
- bathroom footage was blurred or blacked out
- access to the footage was restricted to specific senior site officials
- an AI-based system was selected so that staff and residents did not feel they were being watched by someone.
“When considering the use of surveillance in residential care, consideration needs to be given to how to protect privacy of residents and staff, and in doing so, concessions may be necessary on the functionality or accuracy of the technology,” reads the PwC report.
When it comes to assessing the functionality of the type of surveillance technology that could be used, the report found that “there will be benefits and limitations of every system, and its operations will depend on the type of residential care service and the complexity of care needs of residents.”
Key aspects to consider include:
- the amount and type of infrastructure used, for example, the number of recording devices including cameras or sound boxes
- any system blind spots
- the way in which visual footage is viewed, such as only viewed on exceptional basis with specific access, or able to be viewed continuously through a monitor
- the process for alerting of events, for example, a phone call from an independent third-party monitoring service or an automated push notification to a clinical staff member’s device.
The purpose of the SA pilot was to test surveillance technology in a real-world setting before introducing it more widely across the sector.
“We can expect to see the increased digitisation of residential care and it is important to learn from trials like the CCTV Pilot Project to determine what role technology has to play and how and when it will be appropriate to support quality and safety in residential care,” said the report’s authors.
“While the pilot did not achieve the aspirations held for it, there are many insights that can help governments and the aged care sector in Australia when they are considering the use of surveillance technologies in residential care.”