I just returned last week from three weeks in China. The last two weeks were spent shadowing doctors and observing treatment strategies for various problems. The clinics in the hospitals I went to mainly were in the departments of gynecology, internal medicine, pain and gastroenterology. Some of the many medical problems I observed included: chronic and acute body pain, migraines and headaches, dizziness and vertigo, depression, gynecological issues including fibroids, cysts & painful menstruation, various digestive problems including gastric pain, reflux and gastritis.

It was interesting to watch the various approaches, both herbal and acupuncture. Most of the doctors of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) do either one. I was told there is a pretty clear boundary on these areas. I would imagine it might be different in other parts of China however. In order to practice in Texas, we are required to be Board Certified in both Chinese Herbal Medicine as well as in Acupuncture.

In general, patients tend to respond better when both acupuncture and herbal medicine is prescribed. But it does depend on the condition and the number of Western prescriptions a patient takes.

I found the general population seeking medical care at the TCM clinics of two types. Those who only believe in Chinese medicine (and consequently don’t go to Western style MD’s) and those who tried Western medicine but didn’t like the effects of the drugs on their bodies. It was interesting to note that there seemed to be a larger percentage of younger men who were having strokes in China. My guess is that many of them did not go to Western doctors to monitor blood pressure or cholesterol. ( I maintain my mantra that if you get the best of Western and Chinese, you can have really good healthcare).

There were a few glaring observations that I would like to share. We in the USA are very blessed to have good healthcare and healthcare facilities. As broken as some people think it is, it is wonderful in comparison to healthcare in other parts of the world. We have requirements for cleanliness, proper disposal of trash and needles, disinfecting exam tables and surrounding areas, washing hands and sterilizing equipment, to name a few. We have the right to meet with the acupuncturist, doctor or nurse privately. We would never tolerate having five patients waiting in the same room listening until it is their time to meet with the doctor. We expect that the health care provider will use clean needle technique when giving a treatment or injection. We take these “little things” for granted and would be appalled if it would not be the case when we visit our doctor. The TCM doctors I observed were good doctors. They had different styles and philosophies about treating the different problems but they were all trained doctors of Chinese medicine. The patients were completely willing to submit to the treatment strategies the doctors recommended and there were very few, if any, questions asked…

With all the above said, I have to say that the doctors see a lot of patients every day. There is a waiting line out the door. Which means that patients feel they get better whent they see the doctor. Although it would not seem up to our “sanitary standards,” there is a cultural understanding that this is sufficient. Patients need healthcare and they get it in the manner they know and are accustomed to. Through my interpreter, patients responded that they like coming to the clinics and they like getting their acupuncture and/or herbal prescriptions. They say it helps and they feel better. I guess at the end of the day, that’s what we all want when we go to the doctor.

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