Patienthood and participation in the digital era

Sonja Erikainen* (Corresponding Author), Martyn Pickersgill, Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Sarah Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The 'digital era' of informatics and knowledge integration has changed the roles and experiences of patients, research participants and health consumers. No longer figured (merely) as passive recipients of healthcare services or as beneficiaries of top-down biomedical information, individuals are increasingly seen as active contributors in healthcare and research. They are positioned into multiple roles that are experienced simultaneously by those who access and co-produce digital content that can easily be transformed into data. This is contextualised by 'big data' technologies that have altered biomedicine, enabling collation and analysis of myriad data from digitised records to personal mobile data. Social media facilitate new formations of communities and knowledge enacted online, while novel kinds of commercial value emerge from digital networks that enable health data commodification. In this paper, we draw from exemplary digital era shifts towards participatory medicine to cast light on the rapprochements between patienthood, participation and consumption, and we explore how these rapprochements are mediated by, and materialise through, the use of participatory digital technologies and big data. We argue that there is a need to use new conceptual tools that account for the multiple roles and experiences of patient-participant-consumers that co-emerge through digital technologies. We must also ethically re-assess the rights and responsibilities of individuals in the digital era, and the implications of digital era changes for the future of biomedicine and healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2055207619845546
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalDigital Health
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding: The authors would like to acknowledge the support
of the Wellcome Trust in funding the Seed Award
‘Patienthood and Participation in the Digital Era’ (grant
number 201652/Z/16/Z); research on this project contributed
to the writing of this paper. The paper is also informed by
further research supported by the Wellcome Trust (grant
numbers: 104831/Z/14/Z (SCB); 106612/Z/14/Z (MP);
209519/Z/17/Z (SCB, SC, MP)).

Data Availability Statement

No data availability statement


  • Patienthood
  • participation
  • health consumerism
  • digital media
  • social media
  • big data


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