‘Constant dripping wears the stone’ (proverb)
It’s a complex situation for around 4,500 registered Chinese medicine practitioners in Australia. We ‘compete’ with other registered health professionals in the allied health or complementary medicine space such as Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and Osteopaths who are considered in the Medicare chronic disease management scheme. This allows those practitioners to provide a maximum of five sessions per patient in a calendar year that is covered by Medicare. A GP (General Practitioner) will decide which services are best suited for a patient in their care.
Its’ obvious that Chinese medicine practitioners should be considered in the scheme. AACMA has informed on the progress of their dedicated team to lobby on behalf of the profession to achieve the inclusion of Chinese medicine practitioners with chronic disease management.
There is also non-registered remedial massage therapist, Bowen practitioners and practitioners offering combined body treatments of various kind. We share patients with those modalities too. As a registered profession, we have certainly an advantage over the non-registered modalities that no longer access contributory payments from the private health funds (extras).
Why would patients choose a certain modality for their health problems?
- Because they heard from others that a certain treatment was great and helped them with their problems.
- Because the modality is available in their area and they don’t have to travel (unless they are desperate).
- The costs involved, if they have private health insurance, they would certainly seek a treatment modality that is covered by their funds (unless they are desperate).
- The treatment plan will cover consistent follow up treatments; after the initial assessment, there is planning to continue the treatment in both the acute and chronic phase of the dis-ease.
- They feel comfortable with the treatment technique (e.g. are happy to have needles without freaking out).
- They are being managed in a professional manner.
After those initial choices are made by the patient, the initial contact with a Chinese medicine practitioner is really important:
- Are the premises inviting, clean, well set out and lit?
- Do they feel comfortable with the person? The way they talk, the way they care, the way they establish the patient rapport and the way they are being followed up?
- Have they understood what was explained to them at the initial consultation, especially, if they are new to acupuncture or Chinese medicine?
- Are they on board with the therapy, potentially involving dietary adjustments and lifestyle changes?
- Do they feel that they were understood in their goals for the treatment (which can be easily established: becoming pain free, having more mobility, become pregnant, have more energy, sleep better or whatever else was discussed)?
- Was the treatment conducted in a mindful and gentle way so not to cause too much discomfort and do they feel ‘better’ after that first session?
- Are they charged a ‘reasonable’ amount for the treatment? And receive receipts for their payments?
Dealing with patients requires some psychology and focus. In recent years, I found that patients have become more informed, they make more requests and they need to know that acupuncture and or Chinese herbs will help them feel better before they book a consultation or treatment.
This brings me to the point of this article: Why is acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine a great modality for any condition?
- It addresses all parts of a human being: they body, the mind and the spirit. It’s truly holistic.
- It provides the patient with a different perspective or a different view on how they are functioning and how the different parts and layers are connected. As longs as this is conveyed in a simple form, every patient will love it because my experience is, that they naturally relate to the Chinese medicine philosophy.
- Acupuncture often provides immediate relief from pain, swelling, nausea, headaches and agitation or stress and gives the recipient a sense of calm and well-being.
- It gives patients the opportunity to talk about their problems and emotions which allows us to tailor the treatment and make it very specific to our patient’s needs.
- It’s gentle and minimally invasive.
- The use of Chinese herbal medicines complements the acupuncture treatment, so the therapy ‘enforced’ every day until we see the patient again in a few days, a week or two.
- It integrates well with many other therapies.
- It aims at treating the source of the imbalance which is essential for the long term wellbeing of our patients.
Our role is to ensure that the patient knows how broadly acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine can be applied and that it creates results with many patients, no matter of age, gender or ethnicity. We have to continuously and confidently educate and inform our patients about their options with Chinese medicine. In my opinion, there is no need to try and compete with the Western medicine approach. We have thousands of years of empirical evidence up our sleeves. It’s a rock-solid model and it’s worthy to be mentioned as much as the evidenced based medicine model. We as practitioners require the confidence in embracing it.
In the treatment room and on our treatment tables, we genuinely care about our patients, incorporating all aspects of their condition into our treatments. We give them time and the space to ‘let loose’ and reconnect to themselves. It’s what we have been taught and it’s how our medicine works really well.
So, as much as we would like our industry to have better acceptance and acknowledgement, it does come back to us and how we perform interacting with our patients, making sure they received optimal care consistently and integrating into a big field of medicine without selling our souls. I can assure you, the result gained form this will speak for themselves.
Instead of being put off by dry needling and complaining about the injustice of it, see the opportunities, empower yourself and get the message out there in your community. As much as I would love to be someone else do it for us, we make the bed that we lie on.
Embrace every opportunity to break the ice and inform everyone about what we do in our treatment rooms and how good we make people feel. This might not be scientific but if I look around and see the agitated (and frustrated) state of many of my patients I can significantly (and scientifically proven) ease their stress.
Every day is a new opportunity for our entire workforce of around 5,000 practitioners to engage in a conversation around Chinese medicine and it’s modalities of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, cupping, moxibustion, gua sha and tui na massage message and talk about the outstanding way that we can diagnose, treat and restore health and well-being in our patients (oops I just said it). Constant dripping does wear the stone. Dust yourself off, stand straight and go out there and spread the good news!