Nurse sharing service through apps proves useful for treatment at home, but needs regulation

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/28 19:53:40

Pictured is a user checking the nurse sharing service application on Wednesday on his mobile phone. Photo: IC



Apps that allow patients to hire nurses at home for paramedical jobs like pushing injections and dressing have come under criticism over safety of treatment, quality of personnel and charges.

China's interconnected economy has recently developed apps that allow users to call nurses home. More than 10 such apps are available in the country.

The popularity of the apps has been outdone by criticism. 

Analysts have called for a national regulation on shared nurses to help those who need treatment at home.

Home medical care

According to media reports, cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and provinces including South China's Guangdong and East China's Fujian and Shandong have developed such apps.

Jianhubao is one such app. Developed by a medical college in Fuzhou of East China's Fujian Province, it has attracted over 1,300 nurses to register since it was launched in March.

Nurses, mostly from hospitals and community clinics in Fujian offer home services to patients who undergo surgery, the elderly and mothers who recently give birth, Li Qikeng, an associate professor at Fujian Health College and the founder of Jianhubao, told the Global Times.

Nurses registered on the app are also sent to local nursing homes to help the elderly with basic treatment, Li said.

The app offers eight services, including care for the newborn and new mothers, nutrition plan, oral care and rehabilitation therapy. It also provides services for nurses to accompany patients to hospitals.

"Many nurses work for grassroots-level hospitals or community clinics, receiving an average monthly salary of around 3,000 yuan ($453) in a city with home price of 20,000 yuan per square meter," Li said, adding that some nurses who cannot bear the low salary chose to quit.

A development status survey on nurses in China conducted by China Social Welfare Foundation in 2017 showed that 76 percent of the 51,406 nurses surveyed received a monthly salary of less than 5,000 yuan, and the average monthly salary in first tier cities is around 6,700 yuan, and 5,600 yuan in second tier cities. The survey also found that about half of the nurses planned to quit due to low pay.

Those on Jianhubao could earn around 300 yuan an hour at patient's homes plus the transportation fee. Nurses on other apps receive between 100 to 300 yuan an hour for home services such as pushing injection and taking out stitches.

Li believes that such apps have a broad market in China, and the app developers in the Chinese mainland could take a leaf out of their Hong Kong counterparts experience. Many Hong Kong home medical treatment companies have gone public. 

Regulation needed

"China needs such services. With a rise in the aging population, more people will need treatment at home," Zhou Zijun, a professor with the School of Public Health of Peking University, told the Global Times.

China currently has 240 million people aged above 60, and experts say the number will reach around 400 million by the end of 2035, the Xinhua News Agency reported in October 2017.

The National Health Commission said in June that nurse sharing apps make it easier for elderly people or those with mobility problems to receive care at home.

The commission will gradually improve the management of nurses, make full use of the internet, and regulate the system, according to the Beijing News.

However analysts point out that current nurse sharing apps have inherent risks.

The biggest problem is the absence of supervision and disputes management. The operation of such apps needs the supervision of professional medical institutions to deal with possible disputes, a Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning official preferring anonymity told the Beijing News.

"China needs to come up with regulations on internet-based home medical services, which should set requirements for nurses' experience, professional capabilities, and specify the kind of treatment allowed at home," Zhou said.

Pushing injections should be excluded from home services as it is risky, he said.

Jianhubao has recently suspended services for system upgradation. Li said that they will improve the identity check for both nurses and patients.

"Nurses and patients should take photos with their valid identity card or professional certificate when registering," Li said.

Jianhubao is also working to cooperate with local health authorities to access medical records of patients to make sure those requesting services are in real need, Li said.


Newspaper headline: Care or scare?


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