A "Wonderful Experience" in Florida

By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large

Happy New Year to one and all. This year marks the beginning of the fifth year of publication for Acupuncture Today. That's about four years longer than many people thought we would last. I hope this puts to rest the issue of whether or not we are here to stay. As I travel across these great United States and meet many of you, I appreciate your comments about how Acupuncture Today has filled a need for communication within the profession. Thank you to all of our faithful readers, writers and advertisers for combining to make such a great publication.

As I sit writing this article, I have just returned from a lengthy trip to Florida. My journey began at the annual convention of the American Association of Oriental Medicine (AAOM), which was held in Orlando. It turned out to be a wonderful experience; in fact, in my opinion, this conference was "over the top."

As both a vendor and a presenter, I am presented with the unique opportunity to view the conference from two perspectives. A record number of people attended the November conference, and nearly everyone I saw seemed to stroll into the vendor area. When an attendee entered the ballroom, you could not help but be impressed with both the size and the number of exhibits. The vendor area was quite large and well organized, with each vendor having a specific area defined by a red backdrop and side curtains. Many of the regular vendors were represented, along with numerous new faces that offered new and varied products and ideas. The energy level was high, and people came through the exhibit hall all day. Each vendor was given an opportunity to use computer software and a handheld device to scan an attendee's name tag. With this technology, vendors would know who visited their booth by reading the information stored in the device from the name tag.

From a presenter's perspective, it was hard to imagine a more professionally conducted meeting. The physical layout of the symposium was spacious, and there were plenty of meeting rooms. A wide variety of topics were presented, ensuring that the attendees were rewarded with knowledge and information they could take back and utilize in practice. The sessions were well attended, with continuous interaction and questions from audience members. One of the things that struck me was that while attendees came from all parts of the country, the issues and concerns they shared were similar.

I have a special place in my heart for acupuncture students, so I made sure to attend the student caucus session held during the conference. To my delight, the room where the meeting was held was full of students. They discussed the state of the profession, as well as issues pertinent to the typical acupuncture student. As with the attendees, I learned that the issues that concern students are similar no matter what school they attend. I am happy to report that most of the students I encountered are eagerly awaiting their entry into the fastest growing medical profession in our country today. These "eager beavers" seemed quite ready to enmesh themselves into everything the convention had to offer.

At the start of the meeting, the lines for registration and check-in seemed long from a casual glance but moved very quickly. To keep attendees interested while waiting in line, AAOM set up a big screen television at the registration desk, which played a program featuring information on HIPAA and other AAOM events. The convention center featured a group of friendly, knowledgeable, turquoise-coated senior citizens who were eager and ready to answer questions, give directions and provide information, or just talk and brighten the day for the conference attendees. These people all work for the Disney corporation, and wished a magical day for each of us. Each of these team members had round red flashing buttons on their coats that said, "Ask Me!" At the beginning of each session, a team member came into the room and scanned the name tag of each person in attendance with a scanner similar to those used by the vendors. The scanner recorded the name and address for each attendee for CEU credits. This method was short and efficient, and was over before most of the attendees knew it was taking place.

A dinner held the Saturday of the conference was short on words, but long on entertainment and fun. Many acupuncturists were recognized for their various special efforts. There was also a meeting for vendors to listen to a proposal about new herbal research.

Of special note, Mike Schroeder, vice president and general counsel for the American Acupuncture Council, a familiar face to both the Oriental medicine profession and the health care arena, presented some interesting remarks (listed below) regarding the current state of the profession and where he sees it heading in terms of insurance coverage, political influence and overall growth. Among the most important issues:

  • Licensing boards are becoming much more strict with regard to fraudulent activities by practitioners.
  • In the next few years, much more attention will be paid to acupuncture in general. More people are becoming aware of acupuncture and its benefits, and the profession needs to be ready to address both the positive and negative aspects that come with such an increased level of attention. In particular, there will be more attention paid to regulatory issues.
  • Technology is playing an increasing role in all aspects of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, from the delivery of care to office management. There will be more electronic billing in the future, and HIPAA will play a factor in every licensed acupuncturist's practice to some degree.

I think all of these issues will affect the way acupuncture is perceived and practiced in the U.S. in the years to come. I believe it's time for our leaders to take an objective look at all of the issues facing our profession, and not be afraid to make decisions that may not necessarily be popular with some practitioners. Our leaders will have some difficult choices coming in the immediate future. It's time for us to tackle our problems head-on, rather than sidestepping them or hoping they'll go away. Do we want to be proactive and help decide what role acupuncture and Oriental medicine will play in the health care arena, or do we want to sit back and let someone else decide it for us? I know what my answer to that question is. What about you?

I'll tell you about the rest of my Florida excursion in an upcoming column. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the holiday season, and have a Happy New Year!

Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.

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