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Hastings Center Report

Industry Technicians Embedded in Clinical Teams: Impacts on Medical Knowledge

Abstract: Advances in implantable medical devices have increased the role for industry-employed allied professionals (IEAPs) in providing training and support during surgical procedures and follow-up care. The effect of these changes on the organization of medical knowledge and the sharing of information remains largely unexplored. Recent work in social epistemology and the conceptualizing of implantable medical device companies as part of a knowledge-based industry provide a framework for engaging with this issue. In this article, we argue that the insertion of industry technicians into hospitals diminishes epistemically valuable knowledge-sharing practices. This is in part a result of health care professionals’ increased dependence on IEAPs, who control access to knowledge about devices, limiting opportunities both for independent learning and for dialogic education practices through which participants work toward a common goal. Ultimately, we claim that overdependence on the IEAP as expert undermines a basic social value regarding knowledge sharing for everyone’s benefit.

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