Be The Change

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi

One of my last two classes for my acupunk schooling is
practice management where we discuss different aspects of running an
acupuncture clinic. The other night the topic was insurance, basically its
purpose, how it works, and some overview of what is needed if we want to bill
insurances for patients, etc. A topic such as health insurance mixed with the
hippy, alt. med. environment of acupunk school naturally leads to the telling
of insurance horror stories and how patients are frequently hurt by the big,
greedy, uncaring insurance corporations. I am not saying the stories aren’t
true or horrific because they probably are; it was the irony of the situation
that struck me because the next topic for the class was….fees.

After giving big, greedy, uncaring insurance corporations a
good ripping, one might expect a little more….um….understanding, when it comes
to deciding what a fair price for an acupuncture treatment should be. But the
horror stories seemed to drift out of the room, tucked away for another time
when we need to prove to “others” how frightening American medicine can be.
After much discussion, it seemed that $70 – $120 seemed about right for the
going rate for a one hour treatment, and the $70 seemed a bit antiquated for
the low end and probably could be pushed up to $75 or $80. The idea of
Community Acupuncture was discussed as an option for treating patients who have
less money, but you only get about five minutes of the practitioner’s time and
needles are hastily inserted and the acupunk is on to the next patient which
clearly isn’t enough time with the practitioner. This brings up a question for
me. As practitioners, where do we believe the treatment is? In talking at the
patient or having the needles in? Where is the healing? In our words or in actually
using needles to access the body’s healing abilities?

The whole thing seemed ironic to me, one minute we are
blasting insurance companies for not giving a rat’s ass about sick people and
the next we are solely concerned with how high we can (sorry, “should”) push
our fees, when acupuncture has an unparalleled position to arrange itself in
such a way that people can receive effective and accessible healthcare.

There is a scene in the movie City Slickers where
Mitch is talking with the old cowboy Curly about the secret of Life,

Curly: You know what the secret of
life is?

Mitch: No, what?
Curly: This. (Holding up his index finger)
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that
and everything else don’t mean shit.

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?
Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

I don’t think anyone else in that class had the same
experience I did, but it helped me figure out my “one thing”, my motivation for
opening a Community Acupuncture Clinic, effective and accessible healthcare

So what’s your one thing?

Author: cpowellaz

I Grew up in Utah and even did some experimenting with LDS, but I am recovering now. I am currently in my last 6 months of acupuncture school in Phoenix, Arizona, afterwards my wife and I are very excited to open a CA clinic in the east valley area.

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  1. my one thing

    Thank you for sharing this idea. The view of focusing on one thing in your life is a very powerful concept. Consciously choosing to focus my energy on accessible acupuncture as my bottom line shifted my acu experience fundamentally. I went from a spotty schedule of patients to a mostly full schedule, from a discussion-oriented interaction to a feeling-oriented interaction with my patients, and from a view that acupuncture is useful to a view that acupuncture is amazing and should be accessible by as many people as possible. The internal shift of focus toward one concept guides all of our movements intuitively toward that one focus.


    This is the shift in a nutshell that I had to make to truly understand what I was offering my patients through community acupuncture.


    – Moses

  2. one thing

    i think one cannot choose to practice community acupuncture without believeing that the treatment / healing is in the person’s experience of stillness and the acupuncture needles doing their thing. i must echo moses’ comment – my identity as a practitioner radically shifted with the discovery of the community practice model. i grew up, woke up and smelled the coffee and realized i could really make a positive difference for lots of people. it’s likei finally figured out who i wanted to be when i grew up. knowing this gave me all kinds of inner strength and confidence.


  3. Effective and accessible. (And happily adrift)

    Yeah, that’s the key for me as well.  The paradigm shift from wanting to provide acupuncture in a manner somewhat in keeping with our white-coated, insurance-bound brethren – and feeling the need for parity at least with the chiro world – to the desire to just make this wonderful medicine available to as many people as possible is what really ignited my passion for acupuncture.  I had always found it endlessly fascinating and felt passionate about practicing it but it wasn’t until I tripped over CA that this passion really took hold: when I talk to people about CA there is an instant transference of this passion that patients never picked up on before.  They – and I – really “get it” now.  And as I continue to drift farther away from the old paradigm, I notice how much happier and relaxed that my patients are these days. Me too. 




  4. I agree

    When I opened my clinic, I was charging ‘going rate.’ I charged $80.00 for Initial Consultation with no acupuncture. Then I charged $60.00 for a return acupuncture treatment.

    I saw between 2-3 patients per week for some time. It wasn’t until I was about 5 months into it, I ran into the CA model as well as e-mailed an article contributor for Acupuncture Today. She wrote about a small-town acupuncture clinic and how she made it successful: price.

    So I did what I should have done in the first place. I asked my current patients what was stopping their friends and family from coming to see me. Two problems: They didn’t know where I was (lack of signage) and they couldn’t afford it. So I made the switch. While I don’t have the sq ft for a CA clinic, I changed to a sliding fee scale. I also got a HUGE sign installed by the building.

    The rest is history!

    Regarding the comment in the original post about how CAists don’t spend any time with their patients: I ran into a fellow practitioner and they asked me how things were going.  I told her ‘great!’  I told her I sometimes see up to 14 people in a day (two rooms, one-man show).  She couldn’t believe it.  She said that she can’t see more than one patient per hour.  Even 45 minutes would be pushing it.  She said people are really demanding these days and they want to talk.  I was really interested in this statement.  I have great conversations between the intake, needles in, checking on them and needles out!


    Kenton Sefcik, R.Ac

  5. Affordable + accessible = profitable

    Hey Chad,

    Yeah, very ironic!

    Like the others here, I didn’t really feel at home in acu-land until I adopted the low-cost, high volume method…it seems obvious that the purpose of an acupuncture treatment is to activate the patient’s own qi flow, not to talk with an acupunk.

    Morevover, it shows just a lack of business savvy to set your fees “out of the blue” without first figuring out what market you intend to serve. I think your classmates will have a rude awakening when they have to try selling people on a $120 acupuncture treatment. They might find themselves spending a lot of time in an empty clinic.

    At the last CEU seminar I attended in March, I saw three people who graduated from PIHMA about the same time as I. Of course we all asked how each other’s practices are going. One said he only sees a few patients weekly and has $500 overhead so he has to keep his “golden chains” job, two others had similar stories. I said I see about 30 to 40 people weekly, up to 12 daily, which impressed them, so they asked how I built the practice…I told them I gave free intro treatments and only charge $30 for established patients, and the business basically grew mostly by word of mouth. One of them then justified his higher fee because he has to pay $500 per month for office rent–at the time I was paying $900 per month for office space and making a profit/living every month despite start-up costs (for which I paid cash, operations in the black every month).

    One of them then asked me if I would refer patients to her for cosmetic
    acutx! My patients don’t have funds for her cosmetic txs! 

    I don’t yet do only community acupuncture, but I schedule 2 -3 patients per hour and keep hours of a medical office. My experience: affordable fees and accessible hours = profitable clinic.


  6. My one thing is building a

    My one thing is building a real sense of community. I want to create a place where all sorts of folks can come in and feel like they belong. The thing is, when I charge high fees, most of my patients can only come into my office every once in a while, while a rare few are so busy earning lots of money so that they can afford high prices can’t seem to make it very often. So the fee thing does come back to play.

     I do have to say that I’m finding it harder as my remodeled business comes closer into being. My fellow acupuncturists are not on board around here. They are putting a push out at the state level to force insurance companies to accept acupuncture treatment. That to me is the opposite direction of where I want to take my practice. And my peers seem to be adapting a “if your not with us, you are against us” attitude. I think they might be right. I am against them on this issue. So where does that put me in relation to surrounding myself with that community that I crave? Is there room for insurance in the CA world? How do I create community with people who have such different ideas than my own?

  7. See if this helps

    Jessica Feltz-Wolfson posted an idea under Connecting with Boutique Acupuncturists in the marketing forum.  Perhaps you can get some inspiration/ideas from that.

  8. cognitive dissonance

    I know it’s not always the same people, but I don’t get on the one hand knowing all the horror stories about health insurance, and then wanting to be part of that system. 


  9. My clinic is closing after a

    My clinic is closing after a year and a half since I will be moving out of state.  I have patients in the chairs right now and two of them are sobbing (literally).  They are profoundly sad that this is their last treatment, as am I.  It is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS to think you won’t/can’t connect with patients in a community acu clinic.  That theory just makes me mad.


  10. This is VT. We are a funny

    Skip- This is VT. We are a funny state. LOL Don’t need to influence the big insurance companies. All we need to do around here is influence the state legislators of our tiny little state to make it law.

  11. ” discussion-oriented

    ” discussion-oriented interaction to a feeling-oriented interaction with my patients” 

    I love that description, always appreciate your contributions Moses.  

    Michael Victoria, BC “sing’in rooty toot toot for the moon!”