Similarities and differences between physician and non-physician acupuncturists in using diagnostic methods - an explorative study

Nedeljkovic, Marko; Ausfeld-Hafter, Brigitte (2011). Similarities and differences between physician and non-physician acupuncturists in using diagnostic methods - an explorative study. In: World Congress on Medical Acupuncture ICMART. The Hague, The Netherlands. 13 - 15 May 2011.

Purpose: Acupuncture is one of the complementary medicine therapies with the greatest demand in Switzerland and many other countries in the West and in Asia. Over the past decades, the pool of scientific literature in acupuncture has markedly increased. The diagnostic methods upon which acupuncture treatment is based, have only been addressed sporadically in scientific journals.
The goal of this study is to assess the use of different diagnostic methods in the acupuncture practices and to investigate similarities and differences in using these diagnostic methods between physician and non-physician acupuncturists.

Methods: 44 physician acupuncturists with certificates of competence in acupuncture – traditional chinese medicine (TCM) from ASA (Assoziation Schweizer Ärztegesellschaften für Akupunktur und Chinesische Medizin: the Association of Swiss Medical Societies for Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine) and 33 non-physician acupuncturists listed in the EMR (Erfahrungsmedizinisches Register: a national register, which assigns a quality label for CAM therapists in complementary and alternative medicine) in the cantons Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land were asked to fill out a questionnaire on diagnostic methods. The responder rate was 46.8% (69.7% non-physician acupuncturists and 29, 5% physician acupuncturists).

Results: The results show that both physician and non-physician acupuncturists take patients’ medical history (94%), use pulse diagnosis (89%), tongue diagnosis (83%) and palpation of body and ear acupuncture points (81%) as diagnostic methods to guide their acupuncture treatments. Between the two groups, there were significant differences in the diagnostic tools being used. Physician acupuncturists do examine their patients significantly more often with western medical methods (p<.05) than this is the case for nonphysician acupuncturists. Non-physician acupuncturists use pulse diagnosis more often than physicians (p<.05). A highly significant difference was observed in the length of time spent with collecting patients’ medical history, where nonphysician acupuncturists clearly spent more time (p<.001).

Conclusion: Depending on the educational background of the acupuncturist, different diagnostic methods are used for making the diagnosis. Especially the more time consuming methods like a comprehensive anamnesis and pulse diagnosis are more frequently employed by non-physician practitioners. Further studies will clarify if these results are valid for Switzerland in general, and to what extent the differing use of diagnostic methods has an impact on the diagnosis itself and on the resulting treatment methods, as well as on the treatment success and the patients’ satisfaction.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Medical Education > Institute of Complementary and Integrative Medicine (IKIM)

UniBE Contributor:

Nedeljkovic, Marko, Ausfeld, Brigitte


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:24

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:07

URI: (FactScience: 214215)

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