Mobile Health in Chronic Disease Management and Patient Empowerment: Exploratory Qualitative Investigation Into Patient-Physician Consultations

Kathrine Stampe, Sharon Kishik, Sune Dueholm Müller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Background: Chronic diseases often present severe consequences for those affected. The management and treatment of chronic diseases largely depend on patients’ lifestyle choices and how they cope with the disease in their everyday lives. Accordingly, the ability of patients to self-manage diseases is a highly relevant topic. In relation to self-management, studies refer to patient empowerment as strengthening patients’ voices and enabling them to assert control over their health and treatment. Mobile health (mHealth) provides cost-efficient means to support self-management and foster empowerment.

Objective: There is a scarcity of research investigating how mHealth affects patient empowerment during patient-physician consultations. The objective of this study is to address this knowledge gap by investigating how mHealth affects consultations and patient empowerment.

Methods: We relied on data from an ethnographic field study of 6 children and adolescents diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. We analyzed 6 patient-physician consultations and drew on Michel Foucault’s concepts of power and power technology.

Results: Our results suggest that the use of mHealth constitutes practices that structure the consultations around deviations and noncompliant patient behavior. Our analysis shows how mHealth is used to discipline patients and correct their behavior. We argue that the use of mHealth during consultations may unintentionally lead to relevant aspects of patients’ lives related to the disease being ignored; thus, inadvertently, patients’ voices may be silenced.

Conclusions: Our results show that concrete uses of mHealth may conflict with extant literature on empowerment, which emphasizes the importance of strengthening the patients’ voices and enabling patients to take more control of their health and treatment. We contribute to the state-of-the-art knowledge by showing that the use of mHealth may have unintended consequences that do not lead to empowerment. Our analysis underscores the need for further research to investigate how mHealth impacts patient empowerment during consultations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26991
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number6
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Compliance
  • Empowerment
  • mHealth
  • Patient-physician consultation
  • Power

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