Background: Understanding peoples' responses to and ability to incorporate technology for managing long-term conditions into their everyday lives is relevant for informing the development and implementation of new technologies as part of future long-term condition management in domestic environments. Future research and theory building can be facilitated by the synthesis of existing qualitative studies.
Methods: A systematic search for qualitative studies of health technologies at home was undertaken on OVID CINAHL, OVID Medline and CSA databases for the period 1996-2006. Studies (n = 12) that met the inclusion criteria were synthesized and their analyses subjected to qualitative meta-synthesis.
Findings: Analyses clustered into five themes: (1) managing multiple uncertainties; (2) the reconstruction of identity; (3) the struggle to remain autonomous while allowing dependence; (4) coming to terms with living a technology-assisted life; and (5) the usability of devices. These translated into a line of argument synthesis in which technology takes on the status of a personified ;other' around which a set of personal and relational attributions are subsequently constructed. These allow the extension of existing illness work to incorporate new technologies.
Conclusions: Ambivalence about the value of technologies that are designed to assist with the management of a long-term condition reflects experiences of the disruptive effects of health technologies on personal identities and strategies of managing illness. At the same time, they are highly valued because they provided new opportunities to complete aspects of illness work that were previously impossible.