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Anthropol Med. 2017 Jul 31:1-15. doi: 10.1080/13648470.2017.1334040. [Epub ahead of print]

Reconfiguring diagnostic work in Danish general practice; regulation, triage and the secretaries as diagnostician.

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a Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health , Aarhus University , Aarhus , Denmark.
b Department of Culture and Society, Faculty of Arts , Aarhus University , Aarhus , Denmark.
c Research Unit for General Practice , Institute of Public Health , Aarhus University , Aarhus , Denmark.


Health care systems as well as bodies of medical knowledge are dynamic and change as the result of political and social transformations. In recent decades, health care systems have been subjected to a whole assemblage of regulatory practices. The local changes undertaken in Denmark that are being explored here are indicative of a long-term shift that has occurred in many welfare states intended to make public services in the Global North more efficient and transparent. Departing in prolonged field work in Danish general practice and the anthropological literature on audit culture, this paper suggests that the introduction of regulatory practices has enhanced the need for triage as a key organising principle. The term triage literally means separating out and refers to the process of sorting and placing patients in time and space. The paper suggests that an increasing introduction of triage feeds into a reconfiguration of diagnostic work, where the clinical setting is gradually becoming more intertwined with the governing domains of policy, and the work of the secretary is gradually becoming more intertwined with that of the doctor. Finally, the paper argues that an increasing regulation of general practice poses an ethically charged challenge to existing welfare politics of responsibility between the state and the public, as it makes it increasingly difficult to negotiate access to care.


Audit culture; diagnostic work; general practice; secretaries

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