PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to focus on the changing nature of healthcare service encounters by studying the phenomenon of triadic engagement incorporating interactions between patients, local and virtual networks and healthcare professionals.Design/methodology/approachAn 18-month longitudinal ethnographic study documents interactions in naturally occurring healthcare consultations. Professionals (n=13) and patients (n=24) within primary and secondary care units were recruited. Analysis of observations, field notes and interviews provides an integrated picture of triadic engagement.FindingsTriadic engagement is conceptualised against a two-level framework. First, the structure of triadic consultations is identified in terms of the human voice, virtual voice and networked voice. These are related to: companions’ contributions to discussions and the virtual network impact. Second, evolving roles are mapped to three phases of transformation: enhancement; empowerment; emancipation. Triadic engagement varied across conditions.Research limitations/implicationsThese changing roles and structures evidence an increasing emphasis on the responsible consumer and patients/companions to utilise information/support in making health-related decisions. The nature and role of third voices requires clear delineation.Practical implicationsStructures of consultations should be rethought around the diversity of patient/companion behaviours and expectations as patients undertake self-service activities. Implications for policy and practice are: the parallel set of local/virtual informational and service activities; a network orientation to healthcare; tailoring of support resources/guides for professionals and third parties to inform support practices.Originality/valueContributions are made to understanding triadic engagement and forwarding the agenda on patient-centred care. Longitudinal illumination of consultations is offered through an exceptional level of access to observe consultations.
Journal of Service Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 4, 2018
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