Designing M-Health Product Service Systems for Chinese Seniors

China is now ageing at the second fastest rate in the world, after Japan. Twenty-six Chinese provinces and cities have entered into aged society status, and will become more so in the foreseeable future. The evidence shows that the number of ageing people will peak around 2050 at about 480 million, about one in three people.

An ageing urban population will increase and complicate social and economic challenges. Seniors’ growing demands on medical care services, which are relied on social security systems to a large extent, will incur mega financial burdens to local government. Taking Shanghai, the most aged metropolis in China, as an example, the deficit in social security is mainly supported by increasing fiscal expenditures, a situation that will likely worsen over time. On the other hand, family economic pressure will also be aggravated as well due to the prevalent 4-2-1 (a couple supports four aged parents and one child) family structure in Chinese cities. What is more, hospitals would have to confront the enormous shortage of medical facilities as well as healthcare workers and may fatigue tackling with the tough situation at that time.

To respond to these challenges effectively beyond policy reforms, we need to seek innovative and viable ways to strengthen seniors’ connection with public medical treatment and open more paths for them to conquer chronic disease in less cost but more obliging way. In this context, mobile health, which is defined as the emerging mobile communications and network technologies for healthcare, presents an interesting opportunity space. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that mobile communication has the potential to offer effective means of bringing healthcare services to developing countries like China. Thanks to the low-cost handsets and the penetration of mobile network, the amount of mobile phone users in China has approached to 1.3 billion so far, equivalent to over 90 percent of total, whereby only 29 percent users do not necessarily utilize mobile networks to deal with daily basis. Which implies the great opportunity for mobile technology supporting health service delivery on a massive scale.

While the prospect of mobile health services has been detected obviously, there are numerous challenges and barriers for aging generation in adopting and fully using them. For instance, it is costly for elderly to grasp the method of using new devices. Also, their willingness of using mobile health services is not so strong, as they prefer keeping to their routines to changing lifestyle. Designers could thus play key roles in detecting and removing these barriers, and this is where our project lying in. We will render you great opportunities to interrogate the essential issues behind aging generation, and then come up with possible innovative solutions and strategies. However, the development of this project is based on your insight.