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Teaching medical students online consultation: reframing the doctor-patient exchange


After qualifying, doctors are expected to refine and develop professional knowledge and competences with a greater emphasis on the communication and consultation skills needed to create and maintain a good doctor-patient relationship. The ‘doctorability’, which is the act of legitimating the patient’s decision to seek medical care during the doctor-patient exchange, has been first studied by Heritage and Maynard (2006). However, the concept has been adapted to the new frames offered by the digital context and, as such, Stommel (2010) talks about the ‘forumability’, which refers to the users’ negotiations and legitimization within the group contributing to health fora. Using Digital Discourse Analysis (Herring 1996, 2007) and Digital Conversation Analysis (Gibson, 2009; Giles, Stommel et al. 2015) approaches, this paper addresses issues regarding the expression of the user’s ‘doctorability’ and examines the strategies used by the virtual doctor to reframe the exchange. Through the detailed linguistic analysis of selected excerpts from online dialogues taking place between doctors and patients, our primary aim is to provide new insights into the iterative patterns to be offered to students of Medicine and Health-related Faculties in order to emphasize the need to include in the medical English course syllabus the major dimensions of online medical discourse from the linguistic point of view.