Patient Portal Advertisements: A Discourse Analysis

Phoebe Elers, Frances Nelson, Angelique Nairn


Information and communication technologies that connect patients to their healthcare providers are becoming increasingly widespread. One of these technologies is the patient portal, whereby patients can access health information and complete tasks such as messaging physicians, booking appointments, accessing educational materials, and requesting medication prescriptions. In the present study, we critically analyse advertisements to identify the hopes and expectations that have been used to ‘sell’ patient portals in New Zealand. Two sub-discourses were detected. In the first, healthcare is constructed in terms of physical and emotional connection, presenting patients as vulnerable and dependent, and doctors as experts. In the second, healthcare is constructed as a commercial product, provided by doctors to consumers, in which efficiency is paramount. Our analysis shows that patient portals could reconfigure traditional relationships between health professionals and their patients, altering the conventions of closeness, and at the same time, shifting some responsibilities and stresses of clinical administration onto patients.


medical sociology; patient portals; discourse analysis

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