Doctor-patient e-mail consultation as existential media

Maja Klausen*, Elisabeth Assing Hvidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review

Abstract

In recent years parts of Martin Heidegger’s existential philosophy have been integrated into media study analyses, outlining the contours of “existential media studies” as a burgeoning research field (Lagerkvist, 2019, 2016; Lagerkvist & Anderson, 2017; Stage, 2017). Existential media studies aim at providing a philosophically motivated and empirically grounded analysis of how human beings navigate existentially in a digital lifeworld. Explorations of our digitally enforced lifeworlds and existentially connective subjectivities through Heideggerian concepts like Dasein (Being-in-the-world) and Mitsein (Being-with) (Lagerkvist, 2016) pave the way for the interweaving of digital technologies, their affordances and affective capacities, into the very fabric of our existence. As contemporary patienthood becomes more and more interlaced with digital media ecologies (Klausen, Grønning & Stage 2021) the role of both the patient and doctor change along with the doctor-patient relation. Drawing on an existential media studies framework we aim to explore and analyse how e-mail-consultation in a general practice setting affect and change these patient- and professional roles and relations. We draw on a qualitative study conducted in 2018-2019 consisting of altogether 38 semi-structured interviews with 23 older (65+) patients and 15 general practitioners (GPs) about their uses and perceptions of e-mail consultation. Based on a thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) of interviews and written e-mail consultations, we suggest that e-mail consultation can be approached and analysed as an existential media. From this perspective the digital GP-patient communication is perceived as more than an information exchange, namely as existential communication. We suggest that the e-mail consultation affords an asynchronous establishing of a “we-feeling” between GP and patient: from the patient’s perspective this digitally enhanced “we-feeling” has the potential to provide experiences of care in limit situations when going through transitory illness experiences or when dealing with chronic illness and the struggles and worries connected hereto. From the GP’s perspective the digital communication through e-mail consultation has the potential to unfold an existential relationality with the patient founded on “solicitude” (Fürsorge) that seems fundamental to the medical profession. Moreover, the focus on digital GP-patient communication as existential implies, in line with the theoretical framework of Lagerkvist (2016), that both parties are thought of not as rational, skillful “media users”, but as precarious “existers” in a digital ecology, foregrounding a techno-social being-in-and-with-the-world marked by doubting, questioning and experiencing moments of meaningful togetherness. We argue that approaching the e-mail consultation as existential media enables analyses that foreground media as tools of existence for GPs and patients alike, hereby offering alternatives to the predominant discourse on the digitization of healthcare as a necessary means to obtain increased health security, quality of care, cost efficiency and productivity. We thus contribute to current debates about digital healthcare by offering a “health humanities” (Crawford, 2015) investigation of current transformations of GP- and patient roles brought on by the affordances of digital communication technologies. References: Braun, V, & Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology. 2006;3(2):77-101. Crawford, P., Brown, B., Baker, C., Tischler, V., & Abrams, B. (2015). Health humanities. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Klausen, M., Grønning, A. & Stage, C. (2021) Health, Media and Participation. Conjunctions. Transdiciplinary Journal of Cultural Participation vol. 8 no. 1. 1-8. Lagerkvist, A. (2016). Existential media: Toward a theorization of digital thrownness. New Media & Society, 19(1), 96-110. Lagerkvist, A., & Andersson, Y. (2017). The grand interruption: Death online and mediated lifelines of shared vulnerability. Feminist Media Studies, 17(4), 550-564. Stage, C. (2017). Networked Cancer: Affect, Narrative and Measurement. Palgrave Macmillian.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventNordMedia 2021: Crisis and Resilience: Nordic Media Research on the Frontline - Reykjavik, Iceland
Duration: 18. Aug 202120. Aug 2021

Conference

ConferenceNordMedia 2021
CountryIceland
CityReykjavik
Period18/08/202120/08/2021

Cite this