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  Articles by Alex Tatevian
Integrating Education and Change for Acupuncturists
by Alex Tatevian, DA
Southern New England Health Care Review; 1999; Vol. 9-10
Three years of legislative activity by acupuncturists has resulted in Rhode Island insurance companies offering optional coverage for acupuncture beginning in April 2000. Integrative medicine brings together the best of complementary medicine practiced in conjunction with allopathic medicine. The momentum supplied by an enthusiastic public has taken integrative medicine from an underground movement to an increasingly mainstream practice.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications and is a complete medical paradigm. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Acupuncture can be effective as a singular implemented treatment, or adjunct to other treatments in many medical and surgical disorders. The World Health Organization recognizes the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of a wide range of medical problems.
Progressive academic medical centers and physicians are pushing toward new frontiers of incorporating acupuncture into their repertoire. Very often it is the most highly respected and trusted physicians who introduce new concepts and methods into the bastions of conventional medical care. This integrative approach is practiced at University Anesthesiology Pain Management and Acupuncture Center in Pawtucket under the leadership of Kathleen Hittner, MD. Dr. Hittner and her staff integrate acupuncture into the treatment of patients with chronic and acute pain.
Fifteen million acupuncture treatments are performed safely each year in America alone and the number is growing rapidly. Anecdotal evidence indicates a high degree of patient satisfaction. Scientific research indicates that acupuncture must be considered a serious alternative or complement to conventional pain management.
When physicians are approached with good data, most are open to new medical treatment options. Numerous published studies prove acupuncture's efficacy. There may be only a handful of decent double-blind studies examining acupuncture, but there are many case-controlled studies that are dependable in seeking out reliable outcomes. It took a lot of prodding, though, to convince the average allopathic physician that acupuncture was even worth exploring. Recently, physicians brought proposed regulations to practice acupuncture before the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Patient demand has moved physicians to engage in integrative medicine, and in 1998 patients spent 52 billion out-of-pocket dollars on alternative medicine. The National Institute of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) conducts and supports basic and applied research and training and disseminates information on complementary and alternative medicine to practitioners and the public.
Acupuncture is practiced side by side with physicians in hospitals and clinics in Rhode Island. Acupuncturists must augment their considerable knowledge base with conventional medical concepts to practice compatibly with physicians, and most importantly for the benefit of the patient.
Rhode Island requires its licensed acupuncturists to have 20 hours of continuing education per year, along with 2500 hours of education and training prior to licensure. These requirements are among the most stringent in the country. Professional development is encouraged and sponsored by the Rhode Island Society of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Acupuncturists from the United States and Canada recently convened to discuss pain management at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego. A pronounced emphasis on integrative medicine threaded numerous workshops and discussions. A lively panel of physicians and acupuncturists debated the transdisciplinary assessment and team approach. The problems of the existing health care delivery system and the growth that is necessary to accommodate new methods was the focal point of debate. However, no one debated the common goals of patient care: to improve function, reduce disability, eliminate medication dependency, decrease health care system dependency, and decrease chronic suffering.
While some issues still separate the integrative movement from mainstream medical practice, the gap will continue to narrow. Whether it's a conventional treatment or the latest integrative technique, doing what works best is still the best medicine.

Alex Tatevian, DA
Southern New England Health Care Review; 1999; Vol. 9-10
 
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