Digital Health and the Embodying of Professionalism: Avatars as Health Professionals in Sweden
This paper explores virtual health professionals (VHPs), digital health technology software, in Swedish health care. The aim is to analyze how health professionalism is (re)negotiated through avatar embodiments of VHPs and to explore the informants’ notions of what a health professional is, behaves and looks like. The paper builds on ethnographic fieldwork with informants working directly or indirectly with questions of digital health technology and professionalism. Discourse theory is used to analyze the material. Subjectification, authenticity, and diversity were found to be crucial for informants to articulate health professionalism when discussing human avatars, professional attire, gendered and ethnified embodiments. The informants attempted to make the VHPs credibly professional but inauthentcally human. A discursive struggle over health professionalism between patient choice and diversity within health care was identified where the patient’s choice of avatars—if based on prejudices—might threaten healthcare professionalism and healthcare professionals by (re)producing racism and sexism.
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