The digitalisation of social welfare and health care services requires new kinds of skills from professionals for building trust with clients

The digitalisation of services creates new kinds of requirements for social welfare and health care professionals in client-oriented activities, shows a recent study by the DigiIN project. Professionals must be able to interact with clients both face-to-face and online: for example, building trust requires more time online than in face-to-face encounters.

Social welfare and health care services are being digitalised at an accelerating pace, and professionals in the field are faced with many new things as they learn to take a client-orientated approach online.

“Professional encounters in social welfare and health care have traditionally been face-to-face situations. When encounters are at least partially transferred online, we need to discuss more extensively what digital professionalism means”, says Principal Lecturer Piia Silvennoinen from Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

“This change must be taken into account more clearly in education in this field, especially as the role of digital services is growing constantly”, Silvennoinen adds.

Clients’ increased self-direction also changes the role of professionals

Digitalisation also changes the position of clients in social welfare and health care as they take a more self-directed role. At the same time, services should be increasingly client-oriented. As a client’s role becomes more pronounced, social welfare and health care professionals must be able to support the client in their decisions and manage client-oriented guidance online.

Like previous national and international studies, the study shows that successful digitalisation in the social welfare and health care sector requires more extensive expertise from social welfare and health care professionals. Successful change requires training and support for professionals in the field.

“It’s not enough to develop more and more digital services. We need to guarantee employees appropriate training not only in the use of equipment but also in how digitalisation changes their professionalism and professional identity”, Silvennoinen emphasises.

The qualitative study analysed the learning diaries of 19 master’s degree students in social services and health care from a course on online counselling.


Professional Master’s Degree Students’ Perceptions on the Changes Digitalisation Imposes on Counselling in the Social and Health Care Sector. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020.