China’s new shared nurs­ing apps hinge on qual­i­fi­ca­tions

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Zhang Yu

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.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Lu Ting/GT

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