No reviews on google or testimonials? Ethics and law in Chinese medicine.

One of my patients spoke the other day about how surprised she is by the number of people who don't seek to know a practitioner's qualifications when they visit them. However then she asked me why I don't have testimonials or reviews on my website? This bought me to write this blog, to educate and inform the public and my patients as to why this is so. This is highly important especially in the complementary medicine industry as we practitioners struggle to be recognised in the eyes of the Western medicine industry as upholding certain standards of professionalism. Then there are those of us that are properly qualified and would like to be set apart from practitioners known in the industry as "quacks" which are practitioners not properly qualified and/or mislead the public about what they can treat effectively without unrealistic expectations.

A lot of people still don't know that we as Chinese medicine practitioners, are a Registered profession, just like General Practitioners, Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and some other health professionals. We are bound by a code of conduct set by a Board run by a government agency and this is nationwide, yes, all around Australia. The Chinese Medicine Registration Board which is overseen by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (APHRA) has been in existence for five years. Naturopathy and herbalists are at the moment having a discussion whether they would like to be registered, remedial massage therapists and myotherapists are not, but are in the process of getting a specific certification different to registration.

Being a Registered practitioner means that we as practitioners are bound by a code of conduct that includes ethical guidelines and guidelines on how we conduct ourselves with patients and the public. It influences how we advertise and how we practice amongst other things.

Advertising is one of the AHPRA guidelines that comes under scrutiny for complementary medicine practitioners and we have to be weary of what we advertise to not mislead the general public. Under the code of conduct, we are not allowed to make any claims on services including treatments or products that are not backed up by evidence based research. We can however, state that signs and symptoms and certain conditions can be treated according to traditional methods, however we must clearly stipulate that when we advertise that on our websites, social media and in print.

How many websites of practitioners do you come across claiming that they can treat, for example, psoriasis with acupuncture and herbs? This type of advertising is actually in breach of the advertising guidelines set by AHPRA. Why? Because there is not enough evidence based research to say that Chinese medicine is very effective for the treatment of "psoriasis". Psoriasis is a condition that Western medicine has come up with, not Chinese medicine, we have different terminology for skin conditions in Chinese medicine. We can however say, that the signs and symptoms of "psoriasis" can been treated traditionally with acupuncture and herbal medicine. If there is a good body of evidence that supports the use of Chinese medicine for a condition, then we must reference that information when we use it in our advertising. An example of this is acupuncture being effective for migraines, neck pain and lower back pain, which is actually supported by the Cochrane Collaboration (a global organisation which collaborates solid evidence based research equivalent to gold standard).

Reviews and testimonials on any form of media are also not allowed for Registered health practitioners under the AHPRA code of conduct under advertising. This is because of the fact that it can, again, mislead people into believing a treatment works when it doesn't. People can pay to have people say, for example, that a practitioner miraculously cured their back pain when indeed that wasn't the case at all. This is deemed unprofessional. And how many of these claims do you see when you visit practitioner websites? Not all practitioners inform themselves of the code of conduct. And it's difficult for the Board to view and control every single practitioners website and hence that is why some practitioners still make such claims on google and on their website and other's don't.

And always make sure you are getting "acupuncture" from someone who holds a degree in Acupuncture or Chinese medicine, which is at least a 4 year degree at a college or university. Unfortunately "acupuncture" is not a protected term by law, only the titles "Acupuncturist' and "Chinese medicine practitioner" are.