Smoothness as a quality of care: An STS approach to transnational healthcare mediation

Hartmann, Sarah (2023). Smoothness as a quality of care: An STS approach to transnational healthcare mediation. Social Science & Medicine (Early Access).



Medical travel and transnational healthcare involve various difficulties such as the distance and disconnect between patients and healthcare providers, language barriers or logistical challenges of moving ill bodies across space. Medical travel facilitation steps in with some sort of brokerage service that contributes to overcoming or managing these difficulties and, as this paper suggests, acts to create a quality of ‘smoothness’. By unpacking three salient facilitation practices, namely connecting, communicating, and coordinating, this paper conceptualises the empirically derived category of ‘smoothness’. This as a disposition, outcome, and spatio-temporal manoeuvre of medical travel facilitation. Based on the way in which such practices of mediation act to create smoothness, namely in an attentive, persistent, and collective tinkering manner, this paper suggests that some practices of medical travel facilitation are productively thought not just about setting up the possibility of care transnationally, but that they are key forms of care in itself. Based on these findings, smoothness is considered to be a central but also contested quality of medical travel facilitation and brokerage in a broader sense, but as proposed here, also for care. This conclusion potentially has implications not just for the study of transnational healthcare and mediation activities, but also that of care and transnational mobilities more generally.

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