Robotisation of health and welfare services requires better merging of technical and health care expertise

The more people know about and encounter the use of robots in health and welfare services, the more positive their attitude is to the matter. Nevertheless, expertise in technology and health and welfare should be better merged in the future. This is based on an extensive survey conducted at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), investigating the views of different actors, such as municipalities, businesses, and health care organisations, on robotics in health and welfare services.

A total of 75 per cent of respondents viewed robotics in a positive light. Slightly over half stated that their attitude towards robots has improved in recent years. According to the researchers, it seems that the more people know about and encounter the use of robots in health and welfare services, the more positive their attitude is to the matter. The respondents considered that the greatest challenge related to the issue is the decrease in human contact and interaction.

The respondents assessed that increased robotics would introduce new jobs related to e.g. maintenance and orientation. According to the respondents, novel expertise is required in e.g. different technology solutions, the use of robots, changes in work due to robotics, and the social dimension of robot technologies. The entities concerned should be managed better.

The study also examined the network involved in the introduction of robotics. The respondents had discussed robotics with, for instance, members of their working community or decision-makers, or with professionals who employed robots in their work. Discussions with private citizens who used robots had been few. However, respondents considered it important to find out about user needs and experiences when robots are used in health and welfare services or when products and services are developed.

The study also showed that three issues significantly hinder the introduction of robots into health and welfare services: the care culture, resistance to change, and fear of robots. Correspondingly, the most important drivers of robotics were, according to the respondents, a culture of experimentation, the range of technology available, the domestic development of robot technologies, and interest in technology. 

LUT's Lahti unit carried out the survey in spring 2017 as a part of the ROSE project funded by the Academy of Finland and LUT's Smart Services for Digitalisation research platform (DIGI-USER).

Additional information:

Helinä Melkas, Professor, +358 40 588 1400, helina.melkas@lut.fi