Future Research on Dimensions of E-Service Quality in Interactive Health Portals: The Relevancy of Actor-Network Theory

Future Research on Dimensions of E-Service Quality in Interactive Health Portals: The Relevancy of Actor-Network Theory

Saman Foroutani (Faculty of Computing, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, Malaysia and Islamic Azad University Safashahr Branch, Safashahr, Fars, Iran), Noorminshah A. Iahad (Faculty of Computing, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, Malaysia) and Azizah Abdul Rahman (Faculty of Computing, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/ijantti.2013100101
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Today, the interaction between patients and Interactive Health Portals (IHPs) is one of the hot topics of e-health domains. Online Health Organisations (OHOs) try to improve the quality of their online services to increase patients' demand. However, Malaysian OHOs are far from achieving from this trend. Lack of enthusiasm, trust and loyalty are the major obstacles for successfully deploying IHPs in developing countries. Therefore, IHPs need to focus more on user-centric web portals in which patient demands are considered. IHPs are positioned in a very complex network where social and technical actors are equally important. Prior research on dimensions of electronic service quality (e-SQ) have only focused on technical issues. However, based on socio-technical reasons today IHPs positions in a heterogeneous network, social and technical are equally important in the network. This research is a conceptual paper therefore; the main aim of this research is to demonstrate the ability of integrating Actor-network Theory (ANT) into current e-SQ model and dividing dimensions of e-SQ into two categories: namely, human and non-human (social and technical).
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Online Health Organisations (OHOs) involve the use of virtual healthcare and medical services across distances (Poropatich et al., 2013). OHOs extend healthcare services to a more geographically dispersed population than is possible with traditional care (Arief et al., 2013). In fact, OHOs can be defined as the use of existing and emerging e-technologies to provide and support healthcare delivery that transcends physical, temporal, social, political, cultural, and geographical boundaries (Tan, 2005). In other words, according to Eng (2001), OHOs define as use of communication and Information Technology (IT), and especially the Internet, for developing health care. Riteaid.com and Walgreens.com are some vivid example of OHOs that provide online services to patients.

Interactive health portals (IHPs) are portals that help OHOs to offer online services to their patients. Online services refer to Internet-based services that link various participants in the healthcare marketplace (Meyers et al., 2002). IHPs provide vast opportunities for both health organisations and patients. Health organisations are able to provide their conventional services 24 hours 7 days a week via the Internet (Jaganath et al., 2012). IHPs can transfer some of their services to the Internet and improve their quality to reduce overall costs (Bilsel et al., 2006). Most health organisations receive no governmental financial aids and are in a close competition with each other (inside investor, 2012). Enhance, online services can help them to provide more effective and more perfect services for their patients to remain more sustainable in today competitive marketplace (Smith et al., 2009). Patients can use online health services more easily and without any extra cost (Huang et al., 2012). IHPs allow patients to consult with their doctors online. The IHP directs e-patients to use encrypted e-mail, chat, and video conferencing to interact with their doctors regarding symptoms and medications, or to set up appointments or refill prescriptions (Tan, 2008; Maarop et al., 2011).

IHPs in developed countries such as the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), have been developed for decade. For example, American IHPs try to encourage their citizens to use IHPs. San Francisco-based Medem provides a service called “Online Consultation”, which is a clear example of a US IHP (Tan, 2008). However, in developing counties such as Malaysia, IHPs are in the very early stages (PEMANDU, 2009). For instance, in Malaysia, very few IHPs use the Internet to conduct basic two-way interactions between IHPs and patients (PEMANDU, 2009). In other words, patients can only engage in simple interaction such as sending email, requesting an appointment and checking their appointment with their doctors. The Performance Management & Delivery Unit of Malaysia (PEMANDU), as an economic transformation programme and the government transformation programme council, states that Malaysian health organisations must gain a strong position in new technologies and move towards IHPs by 2020. Therefore, there exists a fundamental need for Malaysian health organisations to move towards using IHPs and gain better opportunities from their use.

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