Humans are irreplaceable

More Time for Human Connections

Interview with Sören Platten.

Sören Platten is the head of the Virtually Assisted Living department at Philips. As part of his duties, he seeks out smart solutions for the nursing care market. He says that technology will not replace people in the future. On the contrary: He feels that it will support an emphasis on human connection.

Mr. Platten, what do you focus on in your work?

As we see it, it’s essential that human interaction remains the most important aspect of nursing care. However remains, we believe that the entire process can be supplemented with technology.

What might that entail?

Our approach to ambient assisted living focuses on collecting information to help people live in their own homes for longer. There are countless AAL model projects and trials underway. For example, there are sample homes equipped with all kinds of technology to demonstrate what’s possible. However, nobody has succeeded yet in implementing it all in a scalable way.

What would make this successful?

That would mean developing a model that people accept. We want to create a comprehensive solution. To date, there have been a lot of targeted, specific approaches – devices that help people with particular things. We want to combine all of these approaches so that a person in need of care would not have to leave their home, thanks to the interplay of nursing care and technical support.

Philips has developed solutions such as smart emergency call systems with algorithms. You have also developed devices that help users dose their medication. Those are targeted, specific solutions.

That’s true. Now, however, we want to converge the information from our devices and systems in a bundled, local way – into what we call a ‘care office’. The idea is for us to equip existing homes with the corresponding technical assistants. The information these gather will no longer flow into a call center in a decentralized manner, but rather into an on-site care office. Care could then be quickly provided from that point – ideally, care should be available for a residential block or neighborhood within walking distance. Of course, the care office would also be open to visitors. The people who work there (we call them ‘carers’) could even be acquaintances of the people receiving care. By setting up these care offices, we would succeed in establishing a sense of personal closeness with technical aids that would otherwise only be possible in assisted living scenarios or care homes.

That concept might work in urban settings. But rural areas are the ones with a rapidly aging population. In those places, will technology such as robots replace people in nursing care services one day?

I’m thoroughly convinced that people will always remain at the heart of nursing care, regardless of the location. After all, everyone desires human proximity and social contact, and that won’t change in the next 30 years, either. Social interaction is already one of the most important services that nursing care providers offer. Technology will ensure that there’s more time for people to provide care.

Even in rural areas?

Technological aids are particularly important in places that are sparsely populated – already just for communication purposes. And if all of the information from a community is compiled in a care office, the care providers there will work so efficiently that they will have more time to spend with those in need of care. For example, all manual care documentation will be eliminated, since technology will take this over. In my opinion, nursing care revolves around a person coming to other people to provide care for them, and that will never change.

Picture credits: Dirk Eisermann

Find other interesting articles on topics such as Building Information Modeling, Noise and an interview with Lina van de Mars in our knowledge magazine contact 1.18 at publications.