EHR Data Shows Large Scale Benefits of TCM for Kids with Asthma

May 22, 2015 Health News
Little Girl with Asthma Inhaler

A recent study by Hung et al, used health data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) to investigate the effects of acupuncture and herbal medicine on children with asthma. The study found that children who received Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment in tandem with conventional medical treatment were less likely to visit the emergency room or be hospitalized, than those children who only received conventional treatment. This study utilized the vast amount of collected information from Taiwan’s national health service to find patients that fit specific criteria for the study. Through basic database searches, 12,580 children were identified who had received treatment for asthma over the course of five years. From this information, the researchers were able to determine which children had received TCM treatment and which children had not. Analysis of the data was able to demonstrate the benefit that TCM played in the treatment of childhood asthma.

What is astonishing to me about this study is the role that electronic data, collected through the use of EHR’s, played in coming to the conclusion that TCM benefited these patients. As acupuncturists, most of us know that Chinese medicine is very helpful to our asthma patients, both at acute and chronic phases of the disease. But this study shows a wide-ranging benefit of TCM to a specific population. To do a study like this without electronic data would be next to impossible. To manually go through records for the snippets of information necessary would be time consuming for just one patient. To examine the individual records of 12,580 individuals for this data would take an army of researchers and lots of time. Now that there is access to millions of health records and insurance data electronically, it is possible to search troves of data for research purposes. Electronic data facilitates large-scale cohort studies of this kind, where individuals from across a population can be compared to each other.

I have discussed in previous blogs how acupuncture EHRs can help contribute to our TCM evidence base. All of the data that is collected and codified in an TCM EHR system becomes available for researchers to analyze in large, anonymous sets. This is one big reason why acupuncturists NEED to be using EHRs- your data is so valuable to the future of our medicine. If a significant portion of acupuncturists were contributing their data via electronic medical records for tcm more studies like this could be conducted. What if researchers were able to demonstrate a link between acupuncture treatment and the resolution of a specific orthopedic/ pain complaint? What if the data could show that surgery recovery time was reduced by 25-50% when acupuncture was included in post-op treatment and rehab? Imagine the benefit to your practice and your patients: EHR data helps to legitimize our medicine and improve the evidence base. The future of TCM in the United States depends on it!

Guest blog post by Thomas Meade.

Hung et al. Study:
Integrated traditional Chinese medicine for childhood asthma in Taiwan: a Nationwide cohort study-