Integration of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine in a Chinese community health center
Authors: Kushner, Kenneth; Yu, Shuang
Objective: Although the literature is abundant on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the West, there is limited information on how TCM is integrated with Western medicine (WM). We describe how one Chinese Community Health Service (CHS) system located in Beijing integrates WM and TCM.
Methods: Our information is based on the authors’ observations, interviews with center TCM practitioners, and discussions with center administrators.
Results: We summarize our observations according to the following themes: selection of type of practitioner; frequent diagnoses of patients seen by TCM clinicians; types of TCM services provided; economic factors; challenges; and future directions. Patient age, nature of the problem, and cost may determine whether or not Chinese patients initially consult TCM or WM practitioners. Because of referral pathways between the WM and TCM practitioners, up to one-third of the patients receive integrated care. TCM physicians see more patients per day than do their WM counterparts; TCM physicians also earn higher salaries. Although there are clearly close collaborative relationships between the TCM and WM practitioners, a few TCM providers report that lack of respect between the two fields may be a barrier towards further integration.
Conclusion: Given governmental policies and the cost differentials between WM and TCM, the future for the integration of the two medical traditions within the CHS system appears to be favorable; however, issues of mutual respect and workforce issues may challenge successful integration. Our impressions are limited by the fact that we observed practices in only one community in one district of Beijing.