A Qualitative Study of the Communication Process for Medical Acupuncture in Family Medicine

Christy J W Ledford, Carla L Fisher, Paul Crawford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: As evidence establishes the efficacy of medical acupuncture, more family physicians and family medicine residents may receive medical acupuncture training and need to know how to effectively communicate about the treatment option with patients. By identifying how physicians talk about acupuncture treatment with their patients, we aimed to develop a model for physician training that could enhance their ability to integrate and practice medical acupuncture in conventional clinical settings.

METHODS: To capture the communication process that family physicians engage in when integrating acupuncture treatment into a clinical environment, we sought both physicians' and patients' perspectives. We conducted interviews with 17 family physicians and 15 patients in a US family medicine clinic that has integrated medical acupuncture into its practice. Audio recordings were transcribed and analyzed by two members of the study team in ATLAS.ti, using the constant comparative method.

RESULTS: Integrating acupuncture into family medicine entailed a three-phase communication process: (1) introduce acupuncture, (2) explain the medical process, and (3) evaluate treatment outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: The emerging three-phase process of communicating acupuncture described here provides an initial model for teaching communication in the context of medical acupuncture. Given the exploratory nature of this initial study and the rarity of acupuncture treatment integrated into family medical settings, this is a first step in building knowledge in this realm of practice. Future research is needed to better understand the experience of patients who do not report notable results of acupuncture and to extend this study into other family medicine settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-358
Number of pages6
JournalFamily Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture Therapy/methods
  • Communication
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation/psychology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Qualitative Research
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States


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