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How does the use of digital consulting change the meaning of being a patient and/or a health professional? Lessons from the Long-term Conditions Young People Networked Communication study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Jackie Sturt, Caroline Huxley, Btihaj Ajana, Caitjan Gainty, Chris Gibbons, Tanya Graham, Zarnie Khadjesari, Federica Lucivero, Rebecca Rogers, Annie Smol, Jocelyn A. Watkins, Frances Griffiths

Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Health
Volume6
Early online date20 Jul 2020
DOIs
Accepted/In press22 Jun 2020
E-pub ahead of print20 Jul 2020
Published2020

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King's Authors

Abstract


Background
While studies have examined the impact of digital communication technology on healthcare, there is little exploration of how new models of digital care change the roles and identities of the health professional and patient. The purpose of the current study is to generate multidisciplinary reflections and questions around the use of digital consulting and the way it changes the meaning of being a patient and/or a health professional.

Method
We used a large pre-existing qualitative dataset from the Long-term conditions Young people Networked Communication (LYNC) study which involved interviews with healthcare professionals and a group of 16-24 years patients with long-term physical and mental health conditions. We conducted a three-stage mixed methods analysis. First, using a small sample of interview data from the LYNC study, we identified three key themes to explore in the data and relevant academic literature. Second, in small groups we conducted secondary analysis of samples of patient and health professional LYNC interview data. Third, we ran a series of rapid evidence reviews.

Findings
We identified three key themes: workload/flow, impact of increased access to healthcare, and vulnerabilities. Both health professionals and patients were ‘on duty’ in their role more often. Increased access to healthcare introduced more responsibilities to both patients and health professionals. Traditional concepts in medical ethics, confidentiality, empathy, empowerment/power, efficiency and mutual responsibilities are reframed in the context of digital consulting.

Conclusions
Our collaboration identified conflicts and constraints in the construction of digital patients and digital clinicians. There is evidence that digital technologies change the nature of a medical consultation and with it the identities and the roles of clinicians and patients, which in turn, calls for a redefinition of traditional concepts of medical ethics. Overall,
Digital consulting has the potential to significantly reduce costs while maintaining or improving patient care and clinical outcomes. Timely study of digital engagement in the NHS is a matter of critical importance.

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