Finch, Tracy L., Mort, Maggie, Mair, Frances S. and May, Carl R.
Future patients? Telehealthcare, roles and responsibilities
Health and Social Care in the Community, 16, (1), . (doi:10.1111/j.1365-2524.2007.00726.x).
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Increasing use of information and communication technologies is said to be transforming health care. Telehealthcare enables medical consultations to be conducted between patients and health professionals across different locations. Such technologies imply new relationships between patients and health professionals. This study aimed to understand how policy and practice in relation to telehealthcare suggests new conceptualisations of ‘the patient’. In-depth semistructured interviews (n = 38) were conducted with key informants from across the UK, known to have involvement or interest in telehealthcare from a variety of perspectives: health professionals (n = 11), patient advocates (n = 7), telemedicine experts (n = 6), policy-makers (n = 4), administrators (n = 4), researchers (n = 3) and technologists (n = 3). Interviews were conducted either in person or over the telephone, and were audio-recorded. Data were analysed thematically with ongoing cross-validation of data interpretation between members of the research team. The results indicated divergent views about the role of the patient, although accounts of patients becoming ‘educated self-managers’, taking on a more active role in their healthcare, were predominant. Beliefs about the impact of telehealthcare on patients were focused on perceived ‘priorities’ such as access, location of services, confidentiality and choice; however, there remains little understanding of the trade-offs that patients are willing to make in the context of technologically mediated health care. The results also highlight ideas around how patients relate to technologies; the extent to which technologies might fragment care and medicine in new or unexpected ways, and participation and absence of patients in decision-making about policies and services. The results of this study have important implications for the ways in which relationships between health professionals and patients are managed in practice, and raise important questions for public participation in service development.
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