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Opinion leader empowered patients about the era of digital health: a qualitative study
  1. Bertalan Meskó1,2,
  2. Nóra Radó1,
  3. Zsuzsa Győrffy1,2
  1. 1 The Medical Futurist Institute, Budapest, Hungary
  2. 2 Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Semmelweis University, Faculty of Medicine, Budapest, Hungary
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bertalan Meskó; berci{at}


Objectives We aimed to explore the opinion leader empowered patients’ relationship with their medical professionals, their experiences and beliefs about technologies, and how they see the future. We also attempted to determine whether technologies, the access to it or patient empowerment are the main driving forces behind these changes.

Design A qualitative interview study analysed with interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Setting All interviews were conducted and recorded individually with the same trained interviewer via a Skype call.

Participants The study is based on qualitative, semistructured interviews with 11 opinion leader empowered patients from six countries including UK, USA, Australia, Sweden, South Africa and Ireland.

Results We identified four superordinate themes emerging from e-patients’ experiences: (1) impact of technology, (2) the meaning of empowerment, (3) the changing physician–patient relationship and (4) expectations for the future. The relationship e-patients have with their physicians is based on efficient communication, proactivity, the desire for asking questions and the use of technologies. The interviews have shown that the rapid development of technology has fundamentally changed the lives of these e-patients, and technology eventually is transforming the physician–patient relationship into a partnership. Regarding the future of the physician–patient partnership, e-patients emphasised that change will rather be cultural than technological.

Conclusions The interviews have shown that cooperation between technology and healthcare is not enough on its own: the most decisive factor is the return of the human touch and reciprocal communication. All of these suggest that technology is an important ally in the ‘renaissance of medicine’ that starts to treat patients as it should have always had.

  • digital health
  • empowered patient
  • empowerment
  • information technology
  • social medicine

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  • Contributors BM and ZsGy designed the study, coded the data, performed the analysis and wrote the paper. RN designed the study and conducted the interviews. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical permission was obtained from the Ethical Committee of Semmelweis University, Budapest (No: 262/2017).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement There are no data in this work.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.