Assistive technology in Korea: Findings from the 2017 National Disability Survey
Explicitly monitoring the need, use and satisfaction of assistive product (AP) provision is essential to support population health and healthy longevity in ageing/aged countries, like Korea. We present findings from the 2017 Korea National Disability Survey (NDS) on AP access and compare them to international averages, introducing Korea’s data into the wider coherence of global AP research.
Materials and methods
Using data from Korea’s 2017 NDS, surveying 91,405 individuals, we extracted and calculated AP access indicators, including needing, having, using and being satisfied with 76 unique APs, by functional difficulty and product type. We compared satisfaction and unmet need between the National Health Insurance System (NHIS) and alternative provision services.
Prosthetics and orthotics had high rates of under-met need, and lower satisfaction rates, from 46.9% to 80.9%. Mobility APs overall had higher rates of under-met need. There was either low (<5%) or no reported need for most digital/technical APs. Among main products, those provided through the NHIS had lower unmet need (26.4%) than through alternative providers (63.1%), though satisfaction rates were similar (p < .001).
The Korean survey findings align with global averages calculated in the Global Report on Assistive Technology. Low reported needs for certain APs may reflect low awareness about how these products could benefit users, emphasizing the importance of data collection at each stage of the AP provision process. Recommendations to expand access to APs are given for people, personnel, provision, products, and policy.
Implications for rehabilitation
Access to assistive products (APs) is an essential part of physical and occupational therapy services and rehabilitation. Monitoring population-level data on disability and AP access can inform policymakers about a key aspect of population health and healthy ageing, and demonstrate the need to expand access by including APs and associated services in primary/universal healthcare packages.
Stratifying findings about AP access by type of functional difficulty and further by specific device helps identify the populations for whom needs are not being met. These domain-level and device-level indicators inform efforts to support specific groups within the population of people with disabilities, which has implications for how rehabilitation services are provisioned, targeted and made more accessible.