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© 2018 Sociological interest in the digitization of health has predominantly been studied using qualitative approaches. Research in this field has grown steadily since the late 1990′s but to date, no synthesis has been conducted to integrate this now rather comprehensive corpus of data. In this paper we present a meta-ethnography of 15 papers reporting qualitative studies of digitally mediated patient – professional interactions. By dissecting the detailed descriptions of digitized practices in this most basic relationship in health care, we explore how these studies can illuminate important aspects of social relations in contemporary society. Our interpretative synthesis enables us to reassert a sociological view that places changes in social structures and interaction at the core of questions about the digitization of health care. Our synthesis of this literature identifies four key concepts that point at structural processes of change. We argue that when patient-professional interactions are digitized, relations are respatialized, and there are reconnections of relational components. These lead to empirically specific reactions, which can be characterized as reconstitutions and renegotiations of social practices which in turn are related to the reconfiguration of basic social institutions. We propose a new direction for exploring the digitalization of health care to illuminate how digital health is related to contemporary social change.

Original publication




Journal article


Social Science and Medicine

Publication Date





36 - 44