Digital Technology in Care: Acceptance is Growing

The number of people in need of care will increase sharply in the future. As will the shortage of skilled nurses. The use of digital adoption platform technology could tackle the problem effectively, but it is slow to get going. One reason for this is the lack of acceptance among the population. The fear of one day being fobbed off by care robots. A current analysis by the Center for Quality in Nursing (ZQP) shows a completely different picture of the mood. According to this, people in this country are definitely open to digital technology in the personal care context. But not everyone likes everything that would be practically possible now or in the near future.

Unused opportunities

Technical and digital support systems that relieve caregivers and strengthen those in need of care in their independence are not new. However, practical benefits, as well as questions of data protection and liability, have often not yet been adequately clarified. Perhaps the problem pressure is simply not significant enough. According to the ZQP analysis, almost three-quarters of outpatient care services use a digital system for route planning and service accounting, but only a quarter use electronic care documentation.

The therapy seal “Paro”, developed in Japan, has been in use in Germany since 2001 to care for dementia patients, while assistance robots (“Pepper”, “Annie”) are only used in pilot projects. When developing assistance systems in the home environment (e.g. sensor mat, stove shutdown).

Acceptance of Digital Nursing Aids: The Facts

With a representative survey of 1,000 participants aged 18 and over, the current ZQP study provides an overview of what Germans think of the use of digital technologies in care. The survey is divided into four areas of application.

Care by the robot:

  • The lowest approval value is 51 percent, the highest 76 percent – in between, the level of acceptance of the respondents varies depending on the area of ​​application. Fifty-one percent agree that the robot can be used when going to the toilet, 60 percent accept it when going to bed and out of bed, 65 percent as a helper in the event of a fall. Seventy-six percent support the use of robots when taking medication, food, and drinks.

Technical devices in the living environment:

  • This area of ​​application has the highest approval values ​​- 74 percent are in favor of a video system that enables the person in need of care to be monitored, 83 percent are in favor of a floor that registers falls, and 92 percent in favor of a location sensor that helps find confused people. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed vote for a smoke detector with integrated stove control.

Telecare options:

  • 73 percent of those surveyed found the transmission of health-related data to the responsible specialist staff acceptable, 74 percent agree that those involved in the care can vote via video conference.
  • Use of care apps:
  • 58 percent of the respondents affirm the use of apps for everyday training. 68 are in favor of teaching apps for caring relatives and 71 percent of the respondents are in favor of apps for participating in groups of relatives.

Age matters

The study shows that the population is relatively open to digital care support measures and devices. “Almost two-thirds (64%) of those questioned see it as opportunities. For a quarter (25%) the risks outweigh the risks,” the study sums up. However, it is also necessary to classify all survey results according to age. 59 percent of the 18 to 29-year-olds, but only 25 percent of the over 60-year-olds. Agree with the statement, “I quickly find pleasure in new technical developments”.

Many members of this age group say that they simply cannot cope with the new technology. The acceptance of digital nursing assistants is ultimately also a question of generations.

Outlook: More Data Security, More Technical Competence

A central obstacle to the development, acceptance and market readiness of digital offers is data protection. The study records and also refers to current studies by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Techniker Krankenkasse (both from 2017). According to this, 59 percent of citizens fear for the security of their health data in the digital age. Another obstacle is the lack of technical skills among older people in need of care.

The good thing about both problem areas: Both a lack of data security and a lack of technical competence can be eliminated or at least significantly mitigated through targeted political measures. More data security, more information, more clarification is the order of the day. This also increases the chances that the positive attitude of the population will help make technical innovations a breakthrough that will benefit everyone involved. 

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