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People want to make their own diagnosis on the internet

Norwegians are ready to make their own diagnosis on the internet rather than sit in endless queues at the doctor’s surgery, claim BI researchers Tor W. Andreassen and Even J. Lanseng in a recent study.

Demand for health services is growing and leading to a sharp rise in health expenditure in Norway, as in the rest of the world. Our health service is itself not entirely healthy and it is struggling with tight budgets, low staffing levels and long queues.

One day, Professor Tor W. Andreassen sat in a never-ending queue at the doctor’s surgery with a coughing and sickly young child and had plenty of time to ponder.

The child was perhaps not desperately ill, but ill enough to go to the doctor’s to find out what was wrong.

“What if we could make the diagnosis with the aid of self-service technology?” he pondered – and what would it take to make people really start to use a system for self-diagnosis.

Pioneers on the internet

Tor W. Andreassen is Professor of Marketing at the BI Norwegian School of Management. By using self-service technology in the private sector, he has raised both productivity and satisfaction levels. But can this be transferred to the national health service?

Together with Associate Professor Even J. Lanseng at the BI Norwegian School of Management, Andreassen has carried out two empirical studies to assess whether the population is ready for new self-service technology and what attitudes we have towards making our own diagnosis on the internet.

The results will now be published in the international scientific periodical, the International Journal of Service Industry Management.

In the first study, the researchers interviewed 160 randomly selected inhabitants of Asker and Bærum to assess the technological maturity of the population. When we see how well developed the use of the internet and mobile services is, it is perhaps not so surprising that the selected group gained a high points total for technological maturity.

“The results show that this group are pioneers who are reasonably ready to start using new technological solutions. It is a good starting point from which to introduce self-service technology for public health services too.”

Anticipated utility value

The BI researchers then carried out a study amongst 470 inhabitants in Oslo to find out their attitudes towards the use of new technology to make their own diagnosis on the internet.

The study shows that the anticipated benefit is the most important factor in relation to carrying out a self-diagnosis on the internet. In brief, we except to get answers to what we are concerned about and would use self-diagnosis if it meant we would not have to go to the doctor's.

“The anticipated benefit is more important than user-friendliness. However, user-friendliness also has a positive role to play. For many, it is also a condition that the solutions have been developed by professionals who have a high level of trust in the population,” says Tor W. Andreassen.

Major benefits

The Norwegian health service can achieve considerable benefits through the greater use of self-service technology. Enabling patients to make their own diagnosis on the internet will reduce queues and the demand for health services.

Against the background of the study, Tor W. Andreassen gives three pieces of advice to the Norwegian health authorities as regards how they should get people to start using a new self-diagnosis system:

1) Focus on the anticipated benefit and convenience for users.
2) Focus on developing user-friendly solutions adapted to the users' technological maturity.

3) Use acknowledged specialists to develop the systems so that users can be certain of getting good help from the technology.

Audun Farbrot | alfa
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