TCM and Family Medicine: integrated care for the 21st century

Steven K.H. Aung
Departments of Medicine and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta, Medical Clinic: 9904 -106 St. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5K 1C4

In China, TCM and biomedicine are well-integrated, which is not the case in the West, where only one TCM therapy, namely, acupuncture, is beginning to attain the status of a medical sub-specialty. In China, however, the relatively new discipline of family medicine, is not yet integrated into the biomedical system, as it is in the West. Whether the setting is the East or the West, there are several specific advantages to integrating TCM and family medicine. First of all, the TCM notion of health as equilibrium, symbolized by the complementary opposition of Yin and Yang, links prevention, treatment and health promotion within the family medicine context of continuing, personalized and coordinated primary care. Secondly.

TCM diagnosis is an intensive holistic process which takes physical, mental and spiritual factors into account. Integrated TCM and biomedical diagnosis is properly referred to as “dual diagnosis,” and it increases the family physician’s chances of making an accurate assessment of the patient’s condition. TCM diagnosis acknowledges the value of biomedical empirical analysis, use of laboratory equipment, facilities and so on.

Third, the integrated family physician has more options for providing the treatment of choice to the patients. Relatively safe, non-invasive TCM techniques may be the initial option, followed by the stronger-and often more invasive and iatrogenic-biomedical therapeutic modalities. As for referral, the patient may be sent to other TCM or biomedical consultants for expert second opinions and more specialized diagnosis and care. Finally, competence and compassion are the keys to viable integration of the two medical systems in the 21st century, in the interest of enhancing the quality of care for all our dear patients.