There is increasing interest in using electronic mail and other electronic health technologies (e-health technologies) in patient follow-ups. This study sheds light on patients’ reception of provider-initiated e-health in their everyday environments. In a research project carried out in Norway (2005-2007), an electronic address for a hospital dermatology ward was offered to 50 patient families for improved access to expert advice from the patients’ homes. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 12 families, this paper explores how the electronic address was integrated into everyday health practice. The research illuminates how the electronic address did not only represent changes related to treatment procedures and frequency or nature of expert contact; it was also important to other practices in the everyday lives of the families of patients with chronic illness. Once in place on the patients’ computers, the electronic address was ascribed at least four different roles: it was used as the intended riverbed for a flow of information, but also as a safety alarm, as a shield to the medical gaze and as a token of competence in care and parenting. The multiplicity in use and reception of an electronic address in patient settings illustrates the need to include patients’ everyday practices in current professional and political discussions of e-mail and other e-health technologies. Thus this paper argues that there is a need for research on electronic patient-provider communication that moves beyond frequency of use and questions on how technology will affect medical encounters. Social science equally needs to investigate how provider-initiated e-health technologies gets involved in patients’ moral and social performance of health and illness in everyday life.
Andreassen HK. What does an e-mail address add? - Doing health and technology at home. Soc Sci Med [Internet]. 2010 Dec 13;In Press, Corrected Proof. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VBF-51P9TCK-1/2/95c460d6dd6879b4bbf12a224f8790d6