Moral Economy and Moral Capital in the Community of Clinical Practice

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This New Zealand study used focused ethnography to explore the activities of communities of clinical practice (CoCP) in a community-based long-term conditions management program within a large primary health care clinic. CoCP are the informal vehicles by which patient care was delivered within the program. Here, we describe the CoCP as a micro-level moral economy within which values such as trust, respect, authenticity, reciprocity, and obligation circulate as a kind of moral capital. As taxpayers, citizens who become patients are credited with moral capital because the public health system is funded by taxes. This moral capital can be paid forward, accrued, banked, redeemed, exchanged, and forfeited by patients and their health care professionals during the course of a patient’s journey. The concept of moral capital offers another route into the “black box” of clinical work by providing an alternative theoretic for explaining the relational aspects of patient care.

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