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Connective and Tactfully Tactical: Connective Tactics and Professional Authority in Doctor-Patient Relationships

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Medical authority is often thought to be threatened by lay access to information, but how does professional authority work when citizens have more knowledge and choices? We seek to understand how professional authority works in doctor-patient relationships and what each side does to navigate medical encounters. Our abductive study is relational as it builds on qualitative interviews with both doctors and patients. While doctors and patients each try to steer the encounter towards their desired outcomes, they also employ a series of 'connective tactics' to maintain a good, professional relationship. These connective tactics are often draped in a 'tactful' and informal manner so as not to threaten the continuous authority relationship between professionals and citizens. Both sides have a repertoire of how to act on authority relations, often supported by courteous attempts to not insist on formal superiority or patient rights. Each side shifts between what may seem like traditional and connective ways to perform medical authority. Doctors can continue to act as knowledge authorities if they also at least appear to be equals with patients; and patients can use internet findings to get involved in medical decisions as long as they pretend to still respect medical authority.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115924
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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