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Int J Med Inform. 2003 Aug;71(1):33-41.

Personal relationships with an intelligent interactive telephone health behavior advisor system: a multimethod study using surveys and ethnographic interviews.

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Center for Medical Informatics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


The burgeoning of consumer health informatics and virtual health care can help people improve their health. However, little is known about individuals' reactions to such systems. We conducted an evaluation of the telephone-linked care (TLC) system, a computer-based telecommunications system, that functions as an at home monitor, educator, and counselor for patients with chronic health conditions. Our multimethod assessment of individuals' reactions to using TLC included both quantitative and qualitative methods. Ethnographic in-depth open-ended interviews indicated more subtle and surprising reactions to TLC than the overall positive responses from surveys: individuals formed personal relationships with this technology. This relationship formation suggests that TLC designers may have been successful in their attempts to emulate a conversation with a human being. Our study adds to evidence that technology can serve as a projective device for peoples' values and psychological issues. Both designers and users project values and goals onto computer-based technologies and take on different identities through it. Different groups of users, therefore, may see the same technology differently. People also form relationships with technologies, as they did with TLC. These findings, as well as implications for system design and health outcomes, need to be explored in additional studies.

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