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Remote doctors and absent patients: Acting at a distance in telemedicine?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Carl May, Dr Tracy Finch


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According to policy makers, telemedicine offers "huge opportunities to improve the quality and accessibility of health services." It is defined as diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring, with doctors and patients separated by space (and usually time) but mediated through information and communication technologies. This mediation is explored through an ethnography of a U.K. teledermatology clinic. Diagnostic image transfer enables medicine at a distance, as patients are removed from knowledge generation by concentrating their identities into images. Yet that form of identity allows images and the expert gaze to be brought into potentially lifesaving proximity. Following Latour's thread, images must be captured and then mobilized to the knowledge base, where they must be stabilized into standard diagnoses, then combined with different images, waiting lists, skin lesions, dermatologists, paper records, and beds, so that ultimately, outcomes are produced. This huge task requires new knowledges and a widening of agency that, if unacknowledged, may see telemedicine projects continue to founder.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mort M, May CR, Williams T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science Technology and Human Values

Year: 2003

Volume: 28

Issue: 2

Pages: 274-295

ISSN (print): 0162-2439

ISSN (electronic): 1552-8251

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/0162243902250907


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