Risk Media in Medicine

The Rise of the Metaclinical Health App Ecosystem

Authored by: Kirsten Ostherr

The Routledge Companion to Media and Risk

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138638938
eBook ISBN: 9781315637501
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter analyzes new forms of screen-based media interfaces that manage the health risks of populations and the financial risks of corporate stakeholders providing services to those populations. The first section defines metaclinical spaces and describes the different regulatory frameworks that govern risk media, particularly digital health apps, developed for use in these spaces. The second section describes the digital infrastructures that enable social, affective selves to become quantified as numerical representations of health and disease. The third part of the chapter explains how technologies of quantification and metaclinical risk media contribute to a shift in medicine from individual, reactive care to population-based, preventive care. The fourth section provides a case study of an exemplary digital health risk media program called Omada Health. As a metaclinical tool for managing users’ risk of developing type two diabetes and heart disease, this platform demonstrates how big data-driven concepts of risk address corporate stakeholders through the rhetoric of return-on-investment, while they engage patients through the language of science-based self-care. The conclusion describes how new forms of clinical and metaclinical risk media, such as electronic health records and health surveillance apps, are redefining “the human” in quantitative terms that elide fundamental aspects of the experience of health and illness.

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