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Models for integrating medical acupuncture into practice: an exploratory qualitative study of physicians’ experiences
  1. Ellen T Crumley
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ellen T Crumley, Department of Community Health & Epidemiology, Dalhousie University, 5790 University Ave, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 1V7; ecrumley{at}


Background Internationally, physicians are integrating medical acupuncture into their practice. Although there are some informative surveys and reviews, there are few international, exploratory studies detailing how physicians have accommodated medical acupuncture (eg, by modifying schedules, space and processes).

Objective To examine how physicians integrate medical acupuncture into their practice.

Methods Semi-structured interviews and participant observations of physicians practising medical acupuncture were conducted using convenience and snowball sampling. Data were analysed in NVivo and themes were developed. Despite variation, three principal models were developed to summarise the different ways that physicians integrated medical acupuncture into their practice, using the core concept of ‘helping’. Quotes were used to illustrate each model and its corresponding themes.

Results There were 25 participants from 11 countries: 21 agreed to be interviewed and four engaged in participant observations. Seventy-two per cent were general practitioners. The three models were: (1) appointments (44%); (2) clinics (44%); and (3) full-time practice (24%). Some physicians held both appointments and regular clinics (models 1 and 2). Most full-time physicians initially tried appointments and/or clinics. Some physicians charged to offset administration costs or compensate for their time.

Discussion Despite variation within each category, the three models encapsulated how physicians described their integration of medical acupuncture. Physicians varied in how often they administered medical acupuncture and the amount of time they spent with patients. Although 24% of physicians surveyed administered medical acupuncture full-time, most practised it part-time. Each individual physician incorporated medical acupuncture in the way that worked best for their practice.


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