Empowerment and Health Portals

Empowerment and Health Portals

Mats Edenius (Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-050-9.ch119
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We know that interest in employing Web portals for communication between the health care sector and the public is constantly increasing (Kapsalis, Charatsis, Georgoudakis, Nikoloutsos, & Papadopoulos, 2004). We can also find an increasing demand for various kinds of such communication (Sciamanna, Clark, Diaz, & Newton, 2003). It promises to become an important and valuable tool for e-health (i.e., computer-based health care and health care management). Patients can log into a Web portal in order to find an appropriate medical treatment, communicate personal matters, and/or find the right way and place to find adequate health care. In the last 10 years, we have also seen “empowerment” flourish, not least in an Internet context. In conventional research about Internet and Web portals, empowerment refers to a quite general process of gaining influence over events and outcomes. For example, it is argued that people are becoming more informed and managing their situations in better ways thanks to portal solutions and thereby becoming more empowered (Fergusson, 2004). Empowerment is central in the discourse of health and an important analytical concept to understand how portals work and can improve health care (Cathain et al., 2005). In this article, I will argue that empowerment is indeed a fruitful concept to capture the potential of Web portals (in the health care sector). However, what is largely missing in the contemporary analyses is a more dynamic approach to analysing empowerment than found in conventional research, and how from such an approach we may justify the way Web portals are used to reach better results. The argumentation will be supported and illustrated by empirical material based on how different health portals are used.

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