The Growing Trend of Chinese & Western Medicine Integration

Although they employ vastly different strategies, Chinese and Western medical practitioners share common goals – to treat the health and well-being of patients. As we have moved into the new millennium, both Chinese and Western hospitals have made it a priority to integrate the best practices of both approaches.

Early Beginnings

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) originated in ancient China and evolved over thousands of years. TCM is based on the idea that the body’s vital energy (called chi) circulates through channels. These channels connect to the organs and functions of the body. Some typical forms of TCM include herbal medicine, acupuncture and tai chi. TCM treatments are intended to improve the harmony of the body’s energy, as opposed to Western medicine treatments, which focus on drugs and surgery to treat symptoms.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that integration of Chinese and Western medicine began to take hold in mainland China. Due to a shortage of available Western-trained physicians, Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, made a speech in support of traditional Chinese medicine. It was a political necessity – there were not enough Western doctors to serve the large Chinese population, and many were already relying on TCM for treatment. In his speech, Mao also proposed a unification of TCM and Western medicine.

Medicine in China Today

According to the Chinese Medicine Journal, many Chinese schools now devote at least a third of their training to Western medicine. This integrated training carries through to patient treatment.

At a Chinese hospital, a patient may receive a diagnostic X-ray and then be treated with a combination of acupuncture and anti-inflammatory drugs. Integration like this has been common in China for some time but less so in Western countries.

Complementary Approach in the West

However, in recent years, we are starting to see that trend change. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the worldwide TCM market is increasing between 10% to 20% each year.

Many US hospitals are now adopting TCM techniques. In my hometown, our hospital has a very popular alternative medicine department which makes use of TCM techniques. Other US hospitals have similar programs.

To help hospitals staff their programs with skilled practitioners, the US is also creating more opportunities for Traditional Chinese Medicine education and certification. There are more than 60 TCM schools in the United States, and the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco has just launched a professional doctoral degree in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.

An Integrated Approach for the Benefit of the Patient

As a response to the desire of patients for a complementary approach, many healthcare consultants are now helping hospitals and healthcare practitioners integrate their offerings.

Both sides of the world are learning from each other, and we anticipate even more integration in the future. Hospitals and health centers with both offerings can expect to see more interest and utilization as integration gains ground.

Contact an experienced healthcare consultant, Pacific Century Ventures to discuss healthcare joint ventures in China.

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