Iowa nursing homes may see cameras in resident rooms – with state legislators progressing a bill on the matter.
The legislation will allow the use of “granny cams” despite many operator misgivings, providing families with a video feed of activity inside a resident’s room, according to a report published in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
Fourteen other states currently allow surveillance cameras in some capacity, although regulations vary from state to state. In states without firm laws on cameras, operators are generally allowed to make their own rules involving the use or prohibition of cameras in resident rooms, with legal or regulatory guidance from the state legislature.
Back in 2018, nursing home operators called “granny cams” a legal minefield for the skilled nursing space. Families installing cameras in sensitive areas can open the door to a variety of legal problems, including the violation of federal wiretapping laws, lawyer Tim Ford said at the time. Ford is a partner at Einhorn Barbarito Frost & Botwinick law firm in New Jersey.
While extreme, federal wiretapping laws could apply if residents or staff are overheard discussing sensitive, non-care-related issues by family members from multiple states away. The resident and loved one could be in two different states, with different jurisdictions.
In Iowa, a three-member House Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday unanimously agreed to forward the bill for consideration by the full committee.
State associations including the Iowa Health Care Association (IHCA) have opposed the bill for the past several years, but in late 2023 took a neutral position on the legislation, the Dispatch found. Brent Willet, CEO of the IHCA, said association leaders are currently organizing their thoughts on the matter and want the opportunity to work with legislators as the process unfolds.
“IHCA and its members are committed to working alongside policymakers to ensure high-quality long-term care is provided to all who need it, and IHCA is willing to consider any policy that advances that shared mission while ensuring the privacy and dignity of everyone receiving care,” Willett said in a statement.
Prior to 2023, IHCA wanted to “kill [the bill] before it even gets any legs” IHCA lobbyist Merea Bentrott said in May 2023, the Dispatch reported.
Some legislators have had their misgivings as well – Rep. Timi M. Brown-Powers expressed concern around patient dignity and privacy, while also acknowledging that it was unclear whether video from such devices would be routed to residents’ families or to care facility personnel.
Supporters of the bill, including Rep. Brooke Boden, said the cameras could protect not just residents but also workers in nursing homes, when issues arise that might unfairly implicate a caregiver.