Physician Communication to Enhance Patient Acupuncture Engagement in Family Medicine

Carla L Fisher, Christy J W Ledford, David A Moss, Paul Crawford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Integrating complementary therapies (acupuncture) into conventional medicine has garnered recent support. Given the health benefits, low cost, and minimal risks, the military has advocated for acupuncture and begun training family medicine physicians. Little is known about the role of physician communication in patients' acupuncture engagement (uptake and adherence) in conventional medicine settings. We interviewed physicians (N = 15) and patients (N = 17) to capture physician communication they perceived affected treatment engagement. Data for each group were thematically analyzed. Physicians and patients prioritized different communication approaches and associated strategies. Physicians identified four approaches that enhance treatment engagement: (1) using shared decision-making (e.g., treatment options); (2) not being pushy (e.g., in tone); (3) carefully choosing language (e.g., Eastern versus Western terms); and (4) explaining treatment outcomes (e.g., efficacy). Patients also prioritized explaining treatment outcomes but differently (e.g., timing clarity), with two additional approaches: (5) talking with the same physician (e.g., continuity) and (6) being responsive to patient (e.g., flexibility). Findings highlight how physicians and patients prioritize patient-centered communication differently and how it is embedded within a unique, complex therapy. Data showcase authentic narratives that could be translated into physician communication skills training to promote treatment engagement in integrative care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-429
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture Therapy/psychology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • Decision Making, Shared
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Medicine/methods
  • Military Personnel
  • Patient Participation/psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians/psychology
  • United States
  • Young Adult


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