China’s new shared nursing apps hinge on qualifications
From last month, in the spirit of China’s ever-growing sharing economy, some Chinese apps have started to provide nursesharing services in cities including Xi’an, Chengdu and Jinan. At first glance, the idea of “nurse sharing” might sound alarming to some, especially when China’s sharing economy is entering what some see as a bubble. Many sharing companies that pushed the idea too far – bed sharing being one example – folded this year due to regulatory concerns. But in reality, nurse sharing is more like an O2O platform that allows users to book nursing services at home, linking nurses to users with one simple swipe on your phone.
According to one of the apps that provide nurse sharing services, an IV infusion at home performed by a registered nurse costs 169 yuan ($26.4) once, an injection costs 138 yuan once and changing a wound dressing costs 148 yuan. To reserve a home infusion, users must fill out basic health forms, select type and time of services and the medication to be used. The system will automatically assign a nurse to your home.
For many Chinese, the price of nurse sharing may sound staggering – almost tenfold the cost of similar services at any public hospital. However, the convenience it brings is quite attractive. Patients will no longer have to endure the notoriously long queues of China’s overcrowded public hospitals, a daunting task especially for elderly patients or parents with small children or two-child families.
According to Xinhua, the number of people aged 60 or over in China reached 212 million at the end of 2014. Among them, the number of disabled elderly approached around 40 million, statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission showed.
Unfortunately, China has a severe nursing shortage that is unable to meet the huge demand of its increasingly aging population. By the end of 2017 there were around 3.8 million registered nurses in China, about 2.74 per 1,000 people, Xinhua reported in May 2018.
This is a big improvement to China’s tragic undersupply of nurses several years ago; in 2008, there were only 1.25 nurses per 1,000 people. But China still lags far behind the world average (3.143 in 2013, according to the World Bank), let alone developed countries (the figure for New Zealand is 11.1, and 15.2 for Iceland).
On the supply end, there is also a big need for shared nurses. Such services will bring higher income for nurses, an incentive for more people to take up the occupation. Nurses have been long known as an underprivileged job in China due to their low income and demanding work load, a major reason why the occupation is so lacking in China.
In order for these new apps to be successful, however, such platforms need to learn from their sharing peers like Didi and establish a strict system to check the nurses’ qualifications or work with qualified healthcare service providers. After all, trust is vital to the sharing economy, especially in healthcare, where a patient’s life hinges on the quality of his or her service providers. Compared with car sharing or bike sharing apps, which may cause a minor inconvenience if something goes wrong, in the hands of a shared nurse, human life is at risk.
These platforms are currently providing insurance for users who purchase their home nursing services, but basic insurance may not be enough. If serious accidents occur, such platforms must clarify their role and responsibility, and also offer a complete compensation package for injuries or death.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.