Nova Scotia’s health minister says he will decide within a few weeks whether to have patients at the East Coast Forensic Hospital wear GPS tracking devices.
We don’t have forensic hospitals in New Zealand as such so I don’t have an understanding of the protocols involved in tracking patients, or in this case even the legality, however I do have a strong interest in GPS Tracking.
My first thought in this instance is the device. I hope the device they are considering doesn’t look like this intimidating clamp in the picture. If you have someone who is facing criminal charges, has been convicted and sent to the hospital, or simply someone with a mental illness, this looks to me like something that would add to, or give them mental health problems.
If you can come up with a more friendly looking device that is still difficult to remove illegally and is not intimidating (we’re not talking about someone on house arrest here) it could be very useful. It could be a condition of special leave and more important than people absconding against legal constraints, it can help ensure the patient’s safety should they find themselves disoriented, lost or in need of help.
I have done a lot of research over the years and the use of tracking devices has taken way too long to become mainstream for humans. There almost seems to be more effort put into tracking pets and jet-skis than there has into people with special needs such as dementia, diabetes and autism to name a few.
Current technology in rest homes and retirement homes for people who are likely to forget where they live is more commonly RF devices with a range of less than a mile, but require old school search and rescue techniques consisting of people walking around with directional antennas, hoping they were quick enough to assemble after a person was found to be missing and, having to start with a radius of 1 km and hoping they haven’t already gone past that. Many frequent stories I have heard, has these people on a bus or in a taxi, in some cases being found going to a previous home over one hundred miles from their retirement home.
There will be arguments of devices that have to be charged every day, or that smaller devices are too easy to remove. That’s fine, but we track animals http://bit.ly/1xtu4kB for weeks with smaller GPS devices and I get the impression that the use of these devices in a forensic hospital are in order to give people a little freedom, so they don’t have to represent 21st century versions of 19th century shackles do they?
One final note and if you dig through my blog, which you can reach by following these stories if this is not how you came across this one. First, 4 reasons why Sheriff Departments ankle bracelets have limits and how to fix them http://bit.ly/1sDjvzG and a deep dive into 33 Quick Stories about Tracking People with GPS if you’d like more background. http://bit.ly/1u70WoR
The key is that it’s not just about the bracelets, the aesthetics and limitations of the technology, it’s also about the people who will be wearing them and their needs. It’s also about the monitoring software, communications and the ability for a call center or team of people monitoring the location of the devices and their relationship to the conditions of their freedom, for example setting up geofences to know when they have left the are they were allowed to be in, when the device is behaving as if it has been tampered with, when they stop working ad where they were at the time.
A small gap in the process and you can have a very expensive failure as law enforcement services have discovered all over the world. Some final advice about this technology, don’t take it just from the salesman.