Virtual care: Practising care in times of citizen empowerment and retrenchment

Annette Kamp, Stinne Aaløkke Ballegaard

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Welfare technologies have within the last few years become a new mantra for reforming Danish public health care. Following a long period dominated by retrenchment-attempts through New Public Management inspired reforms; welfare technologies are envisioned as leading to a new and smarter form of retrenchment, promising better quality, empowerment of citizens and work that is smarter and more qualified. Through ethnographic field studies we study the introduction of virtual home care in Danish elderly care, focusing on the implications for relational work and care relations. Virtual home care entails the performance of specific home care services by means of video conversations rather than physical visits in the citizens’ homes. As scholars within the STS tradition maintain, technologies do not simply replace a human function; they rather transform care work, redistributing tasks between citizens, technology and professionals, and they instigate change in organization and professional identities. Studies, which more specifically deal with telecare, stress how virtualization alters the character of the observations care workers are able to make, and how the validity of the patients’ own measurements and observations become a new factor of uncertainty. We explore how the home care employees use different techniques in order to create transparency, e.g. by having citizens perform tasks (like showing an empty pillbox), asking questions etc., as they can no longer directly observe the citizen’s home. However, we also point out how issues of trust and surveillance, which are always negotiated in care relations, are in fact accentuated in this kind of virtual care work. Moreover, we stress that the contemporary institutional context, organization and time schedules have a vast impact on the practices developed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateNov 2016
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
EventNordic Working Life Conference 2016: Hard Times? - University of Tampere, Finland
Duration: 2 Nov 20164 Nov 2016


ConferenceNordic Working Life Conference 2016
LocationUniversity of Tampere
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