It can be hard to find a doctor you like. You might be asking questions like, do they know what they’re doing? Will they take the time to listen to my issues? How much education do they have? How old are they? Are they male or female? Are they in a specialty that can truly help me?
Here I’ll breakdown some easy ways to find a qualified doctor of Chinese medicine. I won’t lie, you will have to put in some work yourself, but not much. With a few simple steps you’ll find your way to a practitioner that meets all of your needs.
Search Engines and Directories
Search engines and directories are a great way to find a qualified acupuncturist or Chinese herbal medicine practitioner near you. That being said, a simple google search won’t necessarily give you the information you’re looking for without hours of scrolling.
You’re going to want to use one of these of these three directories and websites:
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is the organization that establishes board-certification requirements for TCM practitioners in the United States and issues board examination tests. All NCCAOM accredited TCM practitioners will have attended an institution that is accredited under strict guidelines by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). By accessing theNCCAOM directoryyou will be ensured to find a practitioner that has has had 3 – 4 years of rigorous study in both TCM and western medicine.
This directory takes you to a page where you’re given three options:Search By Radius,Search By City, State, Country, orSearch By Practitioner Name.
The benefit ofSearch By Radiusis if you live in a location that contains a high density of practitioners and want to find one close to you.
You can see above that I arbitrarily picked Beverly Hills as a location. You can see a high density of doctors in the area. All you have to do is zoom in with the map provided and click on the red pin for more information.
You’ll see the doctor’s name, what diplomas they have, their location, phone number, and website.
*A quick note about NCCAOM Diplomas* There are three diplomas you’ll see under a practitioner profile, as pictured above: AC, CH, and OM certifications. All that means is the practitioner has a specific credential under NCCAOM. An Acupuncture Certification (AC) means they took all sections of the board exam (Fundamental theory, Biomedical theory, and Acupuncture and Point Location) besides the Herbal Medicine section. Similarly, a Chinese Herbology (CH) certification means they took all three sections of the board exam beside Acupuncture and Point Location. An Oriental Medicine Certification (OM) indicates they took all four sections.
If you’re focused on finding a practitioner near you who has national board certifications, this is a great resource.
Other than seeing the location of the practitioner there is not much info about the practitioner themselves or details about their practice.
The American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to promote acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the USA and internationally.Theirdirectoryworks with individual state associations though not all states are affiliated with the ASA.
You’ll land on a page that has a map of the USA. The teal-colored states have ASA membership and you can click on them. Once you clinic on a state (I found you have to double click), the website will bring up that state’s association of oriental medicine and there will be a link to that association’s “Find a practitioner” directory.
Depending on where you live and how well the state’s oriental medicine association page is put together, you may be able to find some good information.
This is not my favorite search method. I found that many state association pages are difficult to navigate and require you to already know the name of the practitioner you’re looking for, which most new patients wont know.
The ASA is a great organization and I appreciate what they’re doing to promote TCM in the US but the directory is lacking.
Whether the practitioner you’re looking for shows up on your search is dependent on whether they have signed up with their local association or not. This is why NCCAOM is slightly better because though it’s voluntary for a practitioner to resister their information, most TCM practitioners in the US will have taken their board certification exams with NCCAOM.
Now, I really like this site and the reason is because it’s so comprehensive.HealthProfs.comis a website that practitioners pay for in order to get listed. From a cursory search in several areas around the US, I noticed that A LOT of acupuncturists are registered.
The home page will present you with a search bar that asks you to search for aCity, Zip, or Name.
I typed in Beverly Hills again to compare with NCCAOM’s website. You’re then led to a page that lists licensed acupuncturists in that zip code. As opposed to NCCAOM’s site there is no map, which I would say is a minor downside.
Here’s the good part; you get SO much more information with this page. Immediately you’ll see a picture attached to people’s profiles as well as their name andcredentials, and a bio that you can click on to read in more detail. To the right is their phone number and address. To the left you can choose whatissues or disease you’re looking to address. Below that you can even select gender of practitioner.
So say you want to find a female acupuncturist in Beverly Hills who treats allergies. Then you would type90210in the search bar. Then, once you are redirected, you can chooseAllergiesin the left column underIssues. You’ll be redirected once again, then you can chooseShow only womenon the left sidebar underGender.
Now, click on a profile and you’ll find an about summary, issues and diseases the practitioner treats, client focus (languages spoken and age group), qualifications, and how much they charge and what insurances they are in-network with.
I would stay away from theTreatment Techniquesside bar and here’s why: The practitioner you choose based off of the above criteria will be very clear with you about what treatment techniques they want to use in order to address what is specifically going on with you. If you’re interested in Herbal medicine, you can seeHerbal Medicinelisted under that sidebar. You’re welcome to search for someone who practices and uses herbs as a form of treatment. Other than that I would leave the decision of treatment modality to the doctor.
If You Live in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Or The UK There Is A Resource For You!
An organization called The Acupuncture Now Foundation was founded in 2014 with the purpose of making people aware of Acupuncture as a treatment modality, similarly to this site. On this site you’ll find a pull-down tab on the menu bar that says FIND AN ACUPUNCTURIST. Click on it and a list of options with the countries listed above will be presented to you.
All three search methods have their own benefits. I would lean toward using HealthProfs.com over the other two just because of the huge amount of information that site contains. The downside of HealthProfs.com is that it’s an independent site where the practitioner has to pay to be registered so you won’t see every licensed TCM practitioner on there.
Go ahead an check out all three options and see which one works best for you. I recommend trying more than one.
So There’s One Resource I Left Out…
Maybe you want to know about other people’s experiences with Dr. X; If they’re well-liked then you should go to them right?
Online rating and ranking systems are a big thing nowadays and I think they can be useful sometimes. Therefore my last recommendation is for a search engine isYelp.
I’m expecting to get some pushback in the TCM community for this but I believe Yelp can be a helpful tool to the consumer when used appropriately. So how do you do that?
How to use Yelp responsibly
First it’s important to understand that Yelp is a game, and the winner is someone who has taken the time to optimize their search engine results in a way that puts them on top. If you go on Yelp you’ll notice that people with the highest ranking have review numbers that almost seem random. Maybe one person has 7 reviews while the next has 58 and the next has none at all. So we can immediately tell that the ‘best’ is not necessarily first.
Though Yelp has gotten pretty strict about fraudulent yelp reviews (i.e. paid reviews), it’s still possible to really increase the amount of reviews one has by making it a priority for said business. For example if you walk into a business and use their service, they can’t tell you to review them on Yelp but they can say “check us out on Yelp”. You might also see a sticker on their window saying “Find Us On Yelp” or “People Love Us On Yelp”
So, it’s important to know that the higher a business is ranked, the more reviews they have, or how many stars (or lack of stars) they have does not necessarily reflect how good the business is.
The Real Question Is Not Who Is ‘Best’ But Who Is Best For You
Instead of looking at quantity, look for quality. What are people saying? What specifically do they like about this person? Do they have the qualities you’re looking for? Maybe it’s your first time having acupuncture and you want to know how Dr. X treats people who are first-timers and slightly needle-phobic. It might take a little scrolling but I bet there are one or two reviews like that in there.
To do a complete search I would use one of the three search engines discussed above and combine it with Yelp to finalize your decision. So for example use HealthProfs.com to find the provider the suites your needs for specialty, location, insurance, etc., then type their name into Yelp and see what their patients think. It’s as simple as that.
*Please note that I have not been sponsored by any of these organizations or websites. This information comes purely form my personal research and what I’ve found to work.*
Something’s Still Missing: Referrals!
Yes, referrals are possibly the best way to find a practitioner because you are hearing about their attributes from someone you personally know and trust. I know plenty of incredibly intelligent and effective TCM practitioners that don’t have an online presence and almost all of their patients come from referrals.
If you know someone who has received successful treatment from a TCM practitioner, ask them who they saw and what they liked about that individual. There’s no one better than a friend or family member to direct you in a way that benefits you.
So good luck, and I hope this post has been helpful.