Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Willingness to Try a New Communication Technology: Perceptual Factors and Task Situations in a Health Care Context

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Willingness to Try a New Communication Technology: Perceptual Factors and Task Situations in a Health Care Context

Article excerpt

The study uses data from a study of telemedicine in two rural, Ohio (United States) counties to test predictions about individuals' stated intent to receive medical care through videoconferencing. The authors follow communication scholars in predicting that the perceived attributes of a new technology will significantly affect willingness to try the technology. They draw on the work of marketing scholars to argue that task situations (e.g., routine, emergency, and specialist medical care) will affect the relative importance of the perceived attributes. Results supported both predictions. The authors believe that the results have practical value for those seeking to encourage the use of telemedicine and, furthermore, that the results have both theoretical and practical implications for business communication scholars and professionals.

Keywords: adoption; health care; situation; technology; telemedicine

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Under what circumstances, if any, might persons be willing to consider communicating with a physician through videoconferencing rather than a face-to-face meeting? This query illustrates the type of question that new communication technologies pose for management communication scholars, and illustrates the unique opportunities and challenges that those same technologies provide to organizations and their managers.

A good deal of communication research has concerned e-mail, decision-support systems, or videoconferencing as a way of transmitting messages in traditional business settings (Bordia, 1997; Kraut, Rice, Cool, & Fish, 1998; Rice, 1993; Trevino, Daft, & Lengel, 1990). However, the new technologies can do more than move messages rapidly or over great distances. When fully integrated into the functioning of an organization, new technologies have the potential to serve as a tool for marketing products and delivering services that seem to require physical colocation. The potential for marketing products has already been significantly realized by companies selling books and other durable goods. The potential for delivering health care services (and other "virtual services") is now emerging.

As new technologies offer organizations an opportunity to expand their services outside the constraints of geographic space and time, managers need to learn how consumers will perceive these services and what factors will influence adoption decisions. Past research on the innovation-adoption process has explored specific characteristics of the innovation itself but has not considered the role that context might play (Rogers, 1995). In this study, we argue that context is critical to the decision to adopt a virtual service since the essence of the change is receiving a service in a new context.

As industries begin to build opportunities around Web-based technologies, they need to understand the uses of the technologies and the issues to consider when developing a virtual service. Using advanced information technologies, organizations can use synchronous or asynchronous (Rogers, 1995) communication to extend their services outside of the traditional face-to-face environment (Lockett & Holland, 1996). One industry, in particular, that has become "more specialized, sophisticated, complex, and technical" (Coopman, 2001, p. 262) is health care. Not surprisingly, health care professionals are revising traditional models of health care delivery and exploring methods of delivering their services at a distance through "telemedicine." However, as with any service offering, understanding consumer needs and perceptions is critical to making these virtual service organizations (VSOs) effective. Given the centrality of personal communication to conventional health care services (Coopman, 2001; Duggan & Parrott, 2001; Robinson, 1998), the introduction of virtual health care has significant communication implications. In addition, as illustrated in the present study, data concerning the acceptability of virtual health care provides an opportunity to test hypotheses about the adoption of new communication technologies. …

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