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Understanding Acupuncture In Ontario

It is my hope and purpose in this piece to 1) clarify the facts regarding the current use of acupuncture techniques in Ontario and 2) ensure public confidence in the care which they receive.

Recently, some changes have occurred regarding the practice of acupuncture in Ontario. While ultimately a good thing, this new legislation has created confusion for the public.

Beginning April 1, 2013 the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario was proclaimed as a registered health profession. Prior to this, TCM practitioners and acupuncturists were not unregulated, meaning that there was a large variety between providers. This stemmed from inconsistent standards for professional training, no requirements for continued education or professional development and greater complications for discipline against misconduct or negligence. The result of this new legislation brings greater confidence in providers for the public based on higher standards and renewal practices and enhanced public safety.

However, feuled by professional misunderstandings and errors via the insurance industry, confusion has resulted. A prime example, recent notification to plan holders from Great West Life, have stated that as of April 1st, claims for acupuncture are not longer reimbursable unless the provider is registered with the new college. Unfortunately, this insinuates that only practitioners registered with the new college can be expected to hold proper and adequate training with acupuncture techniques.

But you previously received acupuncture from your physical therapist, chiropractor, registered massage therapist or even your medical doctor. Does this now mean those providers where improperly trained and performing a therapy deemed unsafe or ineffective?

Herein lies the problem.

An acupuncturist is a profession, which uses acupuncture techniques as a mode of therapy guided by a specific philosophy of health and practice.

Acupuncture however is NOT a regulated profession, rather it is a regulated treatment procedure. This means that it can be legally provided in Ontario by 11 different professions, so long as they are operating within their scope of practice and have received adequate certification based on the recommendations of their regulatory body. Therefore, members of one of these 11 professions is not required to belong to the new college to provide acupuncture treatment as they have already met the standards set out by their own regulatory bodies.

The College of Chiropractors of Ontario for example requires that Doctors of Chiropractic require at least 200 hours of formal training in acupuncture techniques, in addition to our formal training as chiropractors. Similar rules apply for chiropodists, dentists, medical doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, naturopathic doctors and registered massage therapists. All of these self-regulated professions ensure that their members are practicing appropriately and hold adequate training before applying therapeutic applications to their patients. This ensures the public interest and safety, the main purpose of all regulatory bodies.

With respect to current barriers to coverage from the insurance industry, the regulated professions are working with the industry to ensure correction, given that the current policy contravenes government legislation.



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