How Do Medical Apps Form Healthcare Practices? a Case Study from Diabetes Care in Denmark

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Loni LEDDERER, Aarhus University, Denmark
Viola BURAU, Aarhus University, Denmark
Healthcare organisations increasingly use medical apps operated on smart phones and tablets in service delivery. These technologies influence healthcare practices: both, the way lay people engage in their own health and the working practices of healthcare professionals. Digital technologies often come to be presented as neutral and objective problem solving tools; however, material actors such as medical apps interact with human actors and may change the meaning and forms of participation in healthcare. The aim of this paper is to explore how the use of medical apps by lay people and health professionals in healthcare consultations forms healthcare practices and how this changes the delivery of healthcare.

Our analysis is based on a qualitative in-depth case study of the development and use of a medical app. The app ‘Diapplo’ was developed in collaboration with users, health professionals and IT designers in Denmark to support teenagers with type 1 diabetes to manage daily life and facilitate contact with health professionals. The app is currently tested by users and health professionals at two outpatient clinics. Data comprise transcripts from meetings and workshops, interviews, observations and material products to be included in the application. Data collection is ongoing throughout 2017.

The preliminary analysis highlights the fact that healthcare professionals take on a leading role in defining the contents of the app and the practical procedures for using the app. This potentially conflicts with the preference of teenager to have a private space as part of the app, which neither healthcare professionals nor parents can access. Inspired by the theory of material participation we critically discuss possible consequences of using medical apps for healthcare practices involving lay people and healthcare professionals.