The phenomenon of digital health has emerged as a key dimension of contemporary healthcare policy and delivery in many countries. This review article focuses on one aspect of digital health discourses: the concept of patient engagement that encourages patients to take up the new digital media technologies to engage in self-monitoring and self-care, or what I term ‘the digitally engaged patient’. A critical approach is adopted to examine the sociocultural dimensions of eliciting patients to become ‘digitally engaged’ in their own medical care and preventive health efforts. It is argued that the techno-utopian discourses articulated in the mainstream healthcare policy literature concerning the possibilities and potentialities afforded by digital health technologies do not acknowledge the complexities and ambivalences that are part of using self-monitoring and self-care technologies for monitoring health and illness states, both for patients and for healthcare providers. These include the surveillance and disciplinary dimensions of using these technologies, the emotions and resistances they provoke, their contribution to the burden of self-care and the invisible work on the part of healthcare workers that they require to operate.
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