Having worked as a medical doctor before returning to university to study medical anthropology, Anne Klippel conducted one month of fieldwork in Pakistan for her master’s thesis. The following illustrations are based on her experiences during this month.
Telemedicine in Pakistan – On and under the surface
Anne investigated how human relationships between doctors and patients are shaped when they rely on technology, as is the case in telemedicine. By using information and communication technologies, doctors and patients are able to interact despite being apart. Often, this way of giving medical care is seen as beneficial for countries where healthcare is distributed unevenly. However, there are also some problematic aspects of telemedicine.
Anne found that there is not one singular kind of telemedicine, but many and often incompatible ways in which telemedicine is practised. There are sides to telemedical practices which are obvious and immediately visible, e.g. how some technological features simplify patient care in hospitals or enable doctors and patients to connect. Other aspects of telemedicine remain hidden underneath its smooth surface: different actors and actants play important roles within technology-based healthcare, e.g. constructions sites and mobile phone masts. Telemedicine neglects some human senses and thus fosters separation and disconnection between doctors and patients, making human relationships and interactions more difficult. It also shapes the way in which human bodies are enacted and treated, highlighting concepts of fragmentation into individual parts.