Patient Perspectives on Care Received at Community Acupuncture Clinics: A Qualitative Thematic Analysis

Principal Investigator: Kim Tippens ND, MPH, MSAOM


BACKGROUND: Community acupuncture is a recent innovation in acupuncture service delivery in the U.S. that aims to improve access to care through low-cost treatments in group-based settings. Patients at community acupuncture clinics represent a broader socioeconomic spectrum and receive more frequent treatments compared to acupuncture users nationwide. As a relatively new model of acupuncture in the U.S., little is known about the experiences of patients at community acupuncture clinics and whether quality of care is compromised through this high-volume model. The aim of this study was to assess patients’ perspectives on the care received through community acupuncture clinics.

METHODS: The investigators conducted qualitative, thematic analysis of written comments from an observational, cross-sectional survey of clients of the Working Class Acupuncture clinics in Portland, Oregon. The survey included an open-ended question for respondents to share comments about their experiences with community acupuncture. Comments were received from 265 community acupuncture patients.

RESULTS: Qualitative analysis of written comments identified two primary themes that elucidate patients’ perspectives on quality of care: 1) aspects of health care delivery unique to community acupuncture, and 2) patient engagement in health care. Patients identified unique aspects of community acupuncture, including structures that facilitate access, processes that make treatments more comfortable and effective and holistic outcomes including physical improvements, enhanced quality of life, and empowerment. The group setting, community-based locations, and low cost were highlighted as aspects of this model that allow patients to access acupuncture.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients’ perspectives on the values and experiences unique to community acupuncture offer insights on the quality of care received in these settings. The group setting, community-based locations, and low cost of this model potentially reduce access barriers for those who might not otherwise consider using acupuncture. In addition, the community acupuncture model may offer individuals the opportunity for increased frequency of treatments, which raises pertinent questions about the dose-response relationship of acupuncture and health outcomes. This study provides preliminary data for future evaluations of the quality and effectiveness of community acupuncture. Future studies should include the perspectives of patients who initiated, and subsequently, discontinued community acupuncture treatment.

PubMed Link: