Today is a pretty amazing day, and I am going to tell you all why.
But first, a little backstory:
Community acupuncture was invented to serve two groups of people: punks (who wanted stable jobs) and patients who wanted access to affordable acupuncture.
Everything about our clinics is set up to serve these two groups. Right now I want to talk about patients. In order to best serve our patients, here are some of the things we do:
-We keep the cost of acupuncture low, transparent, and offer the same sliding scale or low flat rate to everyone who walks in our doors.
-The hours we keep our clinics open are meant to allow as much availability to treatment as possible, so people can come in as often as they need to feel better.
-We require all POCA clinics to adhere to our LOC guidelines so patients can send friends and family near and far to their local clinics, and feel confident that they will be treated respectfully and experience the same straightforward systems wherever they go.
-Punk members of POCA engage in ongoing discussion about awareness, privilege, and acceptance, in order to welcome all kinds of patients in their clinics with equal compassion.
-Clinic members of POCA collaborate on best practices to keep their clinics growing successfully, not just to ensure that they maintain stable jobs, but to sustain clinics as continuous, reliable sources of acupuncture for their communities.
-POCA clinics are set up to rely solely on patient acupuncture treatment fees for their income. Plain and simple, we need our patients to be happy with their treatments if we want to have jobs.
With everything about our movement being geared equally toward the sustainability of our clinics and our patients' access to them, there has long been an uneven weight in our organization: a movement dedicated to our patients should surely be led by THEM and not just by punks!
When discussions within our community turned to the idea of a multi-stakeholder cooperative, one of the most compelling points was that patients could join. Patients could have a voice in the growth of our movement, and not just by telling us how excited they were about the existence of community acupuncture. By creating a multi-stakeholder co-op, patients could start signing up for membership, having a vote in elections, running for and serving on our board of directors, volunteering in our clinics and in circles, and working on POCA projects. In Providence last May, patients showed up at our conference, participating and helping lead our workshops, and bringing their passion and ideas to our movement.
Patients have been showing up on our clinics by the hundreds of thousands since the first clinic opened ten years ago. While others questioned the practicality of the POCA clinic model, our patients got it immediately. They are the reason we have come so far.
And now today, patients are the MAJORITY members of POCA. This morning our 633rd patient member joined POCA, outnumbering our punk members for the first time.
What a beautiful thing: to be part of a healthcare movement that actually puts patients in charge, that is dedicated to creating a space where patients come first, where they are literally stakeholders in their systems of healthcare, where people can join in to get the care they need through collaboration, commitment, and community. Go POCA!!