Service robots in hospitals: new perspectives on niche evolution and technology affordances
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Changing demands in society and the limited capabilities of health systems have paved the way for robots to move out of industrial contexts and enter more human-centered environments such as health care. We explore the shared beliefs and concerns of health workers on the introduction of autonomously operating service robots in hospitals or professional care facilities. By means of Q-methodology, a mixed research approach specifically designed for studying subjective thought patterns, we identify five potential end-user niches, each of which perceives different affordances and outcomes from using service robots in their working environment. Our findings allow for better understanding resistance and susceptibility of different users in a hospital and encourage managerial awareness of varying demands, needs, and surrounding conditions that a service robot must contend with. We also discuss general insights into presenting the Q-methodology results and how an affordance-based view could inform the adoption, appropriation, and adaptation of emerging technologies.
Keywordshealth information technology IT affordance materiality mixed methods niche evolution Q-methodology service robots
The authors wish to thank the editors and reviewers of this paper for their insightful comments that have greatly improved its content and presentation. They also want to extend their gratitude to the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences and the Swiss Informatics Society for their financial support.
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