Exploring the Connectivity Paradox: How the Sociophysical Environment of Telehealth Shapes Adolescent Patients' and Parents' Perceptions of the Patient-Clinician Relationship

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Health communication


Even before the widespread transition to telehealth as a result of COVID-19, there was a considerable amount of research exploring its value and impact. However, telehealth research with adolescent patients is somewhat limited, with most work focusing on access, feasibility, and acceptability but reporting far less frequently on relationship building and rapport. This study examines qualitative interviews with adolescent patients (n = 14) and parents (n = 20) from a larger convergent parallel mixed methods study to explore how they understand telehealth to have altered the sociophysical environment of primary care clinic encounters and whether they perceive these changes to influence adolescents' relationships with clinicians. We show that participants perceived the sociophysical environment of telehealth to be both less institutional (e.g. more relaxed and less rushed) and more instrumental (e.g. more focused on the chief complaint), which shaped interactions with clinicians in ways that were experienced as paradoxically less personal (e.g. lacking social connection) and more person-centered (e.g. more attentive to the individual patient). We discuss theoretical and practical implications of these findings and what they mean for defining person-centered communication for adolescent care.

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ePub ahead of print

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