Objective: To describe the practice characteristics and pediatric care provided by licensed acupuncturists.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Setting: Boston metropolitan area.
Subjects: 227 licensed acupuncturists were surveyed; 140 (62%) responded.
Main outcome measures: (1) DEMOGRAPHICS, (2) practice characteristics, (3) pediatric care, (4) recommendations of peers recognized as experts in pediatric acupuncture.
Results: (1) DEMOGRAPHICS: 70% Caucasian, 61% female; (2) practice characteristics: average of 39 visits weekly with an average charge of $54 for a 57-minute visit; patients were typically scheduled for follow-up once or twice weekly; only 5% of fees were covered by insurance; 80% recommended herbal remedies and 66% dispensed herbs in the office; (3) few acupuncturists treated more than one child per week; most used non-needle techniques or Japanese-style acupuncture to stimulate points in children; 85% would refer a febrile two-week-old infant immediately to a physician; (4) only 17 acupuncturists were recommended by three or more peers and saw three or more patients weekly; their practices were all in wealthy suburban areas.
Conclusions: Most acupuncturists in the Boston area are Caucasian and female. Compared with physicians, they schedule patients for more frequent follow-up, allocate more time, are less likely to be reimbursed by insurance, and treat fewer children. Additional studies are needed to assess effectiveness, quality, and access to acupuncture services for adults and children.