The relevance of existing health communication models in the email age: An integrative literature review


  • Antoinette Mary Fage-Butler Aarhus University
  • Matilde Nisbeth Jensen Aarhus University



doctor–patient communication, email, health communication models, integrative literature review, patients’ perspectives


Email communication is being integrated relatively slowly into doctor–patient communication. Patients have expressed enthusiasm for the medium, while doctors are generally more reluctant. As existing health communication models have characteristically assumed the copresence of doctor and patient and primarily reflect medical practitioners’ perspectives, their suitability in relation to email communication and patients’ perspectives warrants further investigation. Following a two-step process and using the methodology of the integrative literature review, 29 articles from 2004–2014 are analysed with the aim of investigating the advantages and disadvantages of the medium of email from the patient’s perspective. The findings are compared to the health communication models of biomedicine, patient-centeredness, patient education and patient empowerment to investigate these models’ relevance for doctor–patient email communication. Results show that patients identify numerous advantages with email communication, including improved convenience and access, more detailed informational exchanges, greater reflection opportunities, freedom from the medical gaze and the potential to level out power imbalances, as well as a number of primarily medium-related disadvantages. The findings indicate that email can counteract some of the communicative problems associated with biomedicine and suggest the ongoing relevance of aspects of the models of patient empowerment, patient-centeredness and patient education for email communication.

Author Biographies

Antoinette Mary Fage-Butler, Aarhus University

Antoinette Mary Fage-Butler gained her PhD from Aarhus university, where she is currently Assistant Professor, and is a member of both the Knowledge Communication research group and the health Communication Project group. her main research interests are within online health communication (doctor–patient and patient–patient), ethical aspects of health communication, and poststructuralist approaches to discourse and genre.

Matilde Nisbeth Jensen, Aarhus University

Matilde Nisbeth Jensen gained her cotutelle PhD from Macquarie university and Aarhus university. She currently holds an Assistant Professorship at Aarhus university, where she is a member of the research group for translation and Interpreting and the health Communication Project group. her research interests include medical translation, computer-mediated health communication, health literacy and patient–patient communication.


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How to Cite

Fage-Butler, A. M., & Nisbeth Jensen, M. (2016). The relevance of existing health communication models in the email age: An integrative literature review. Communication and Medicine, 12(2-3), 117–128.