Acupuncture in Canada

During a discussion some of my readers expressed an interest in finding out about how acupuncturists practice in other countries.  This interview will be the first in an ongoing series of international acupuncturists interviews.

Dr. Kim Graham of Medicinal Roots Acupuncture was gracious enough to spend time answering my many questions with very detailed responses about acupuncture in Canada.  Dr. Kim, as her patients call her,  practices in British Columbia.   Her website identifies her as a Doctor of  Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist.  The Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine is only recognized in British Columbia.   Also,  only in BC is all of Traditional Chinese Medicine regulated although Alberta and Ontario also regulate Acupuncture (but not the whole scope of practice).

Physicians and dentists can practice acupuncture, and in some provinces they are required to have additional training.   Physiotherapists may practice acupuncture depending upon the province, but often limited to “dry needling” and supplemental insurance may not cover acupuncture done by a physiotherapist.   In regulated provinces Naturopaths can use acupuncture.   Nurses can perform acupuncture in all provinces except Quebec.   Chiropractors can use acupuncture in all provinces except British Columbia and Quebec.

Public healthcare is regulated by province and in BC a portion of the acupuncture cost may be covered by their universal coverage.   The coverage is only $23 and the practitioner has the choice to charge more per visit or just take that money.  Additionally the number of treatments covered is very limited and combined with other alternative therapies.   Supplemental insurance policies that cover acupuncture are not normally billed by the practitioner but by the patient.

Dr. Kim has worked in a variety of clinical settings, working at her own business and in an integrated health clinic.   She also does work at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority where she is paid hourly for group treatments.    Dr Kim says, “I have had the unique opportunity to work with integrated teams of western medical professionals, chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and myself. It seems as though this is the current trend.”

Acupuncturists may work in any of the variety of settings that Dr. Kim describes however the most popular option is the solo practitioner with their own business.   I asked Dr. Kim how the schools treated business and marketing education.   “This is a subject that needs more attention,” Dr. Graham writes.  “I am part of a team that has developed a new TCM program at one of the public colleges here in Vancouver and this subject has been made part of the curriculum.”

As in the United States, acupuncture is gaining popularity, although it is still often the medicine of last resort.

In reading Dr. Kim’s interview it seems acupuncturists face many of the same challenges as those in the United States.   Those wishing to practice in other provinces may face more challenges as they are not officially regulated and licensed.   In British Columbia it does sound like there is less paperwork involved with the submission of insurance forms for those on supplemental insurance.

The business model of the solo practitioner and the lack of marketing and business education seems to be a common thread in both countries as well.   There are practitioners in the United States, who like Dr. Kim, are taking it upon themselves to help new practitioners with the business side of their education, it seems as if this aspect of the training has a lot of work left to do.