Privacy and Data Protection towards Elderly Healthcare

Privacy and Data Protection towards Elderly Healthcare

Ângelo Costa (University of Minho, Portugal), Francisco Andrade (University of Minho, Portugal) and Paulo Novais (University of Minho, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6433-3.ch038
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Developed societies are registering a dramatic change in terms of population evolution, the most important fact being the ageing population. An alarming fact is that the birth-rate is dropping very fast, inverting the ageing pyramid that used to have a higher incidence on the young population, now having a higher incidence in the older population. In the quest to provide answers to some problems the elderly population has, applications and projects arise from the Ambient Assisted Living area, providing services that help the user in his daily life, providing the needed help and trying to be as non-invasive as possible. The fact is that these systems operate optimally by using information about the user, assisting him according to his preferences. The data gathered for such events is highly personal and sensitive. This can cause a loss of privacy and affect personal data. In this chapter, the authors present an Ambient Assisted Living project towards assistance to an elderly population. The problems and possible solutions in the legal area towards loss of privacy and personal data and information use is also covered.
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The most developed countries in Europe register a tendency for a fast and progressive ageing of the community, mainly because of decreasing both in mortality and in fertility. Due to advances on the medical field, ordinary people is benefiting of increased longevity. Actually, in the past few years, life expectancy increased exponentially, and in the last 10 years life expectancy increased 12 years. The combination of the increase in life expectancy and a simultaneous decrease of births induced changes in the way people live their daily life, such as family composition, living arrangements, housing demand and even in the type of health care services (Nations, 2009).

Both Society and Health Care Services need to get responses to this ageing revolution. There is a need to rethink planning and health care provisioning in order to improve the quality of life of ordinary people. The current availability of medical care and healthcare providers, in form of continued care and surveillance of the user, like nursing homes, are very scarce and are also very limited. Adding to the fact that such services are costly, and most of the persons do not have the resources to sustain it. As technology and computer science progresses towards the construction of applications in the medical and social area, like monitoring software that is used to aid the user in everyday tasks (Chisholm & Evans, 2007), the use of personal information through these applications also increases. This concept is represented on the Ambient Assisted Living paradigm, embracing applications that help the user perform his daily tasks, using personal information about him, to further enhance the services provided.

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