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BMC Health Services Research

, 7:26

First Online: 23 February 2007Received: 04 August 2006Accepted: 23 February 2007DOI: 10.1186-1472-6963-7-26

Cite this article as: Chen, FP., Chen, TJ., Kung, YY. et al. BMC Health Serv Res 2007 7: 26. doi:10.1186-1472-6963-7-26


BackgroundUse of Traditional Chinese medicine TCM, an important category of complementary and alternative medicine CAM, has increased substantially in Western countries during the past decade. Use of TCM is also widespread in the Chinese population. However, few informative data have been obtained to date by large-scale investigations of TCM use in the Chinese population. This study was aimed at elucidating the demographics and patterns of TCM use in Taiwan.

MethodsWe employed the complete datasets of TCM outpatient reimbursement claims from 1996 to 2001, including the use of Chinese herbal remedies, acupuncture and traumatology manipulative therapy, to analyse use frequencies, the characteristics of TCM users, and the disease categories that were treated by TCM in Taiwan.

ResultsAt the end of 2001, 6,142,829 28.4% among the 21,653,555 valid beneficiaries of the National Health Insurance in Taiwan had used TCM during the year. However, 13,536,266 subjects 62.5% had used TCM at least once during the whole 6-year period from 1996 to 2001, with a total of 156,224,266 visits mean 11.5 visits per user. The mean number of TCM users per annum was 5,733,602, with a mean increment of 1,671,476 29.2% of new users yearly. Among TCM users, female was higher than male female:male = 1.13:1, and the age distribution displayed a peak at around the 30s, followed by the 20s and 40s. Chinese herbal remedies 85.9% were the most common TCM modality used by this population, followed by acupuncture 11.0% and traumatology manipulative therapies 3.1%. Private TCM clinics provided most of the TCM care 82.6%, followed by private TCM hospitals 12.0%. The top ten major disease categories for TCM visits were diseases of the respiratory system, musculoskeletal system and connective tissue; symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions; injury and poisoning; diseases of the digestive system, genitourinary system, skin and subcutaneous tissue, nervous system and sense organs, circulatory and endocrine system; nutritional and metabolic diseases; and immunological disorders.

ConclusionTCM was popular among the Chinese population in Taiwan during the period studied. More than 60% of all subjects had used TCM during the 6-year interval. TCM was widely used by the Chinese population to treat problems and diseases of major human organ systems recognised by western medicine. This study provides information about the use frequencies of TCM and the disease categories treated by TCM, which should be useful for health policy makers and for those considering the integration of TCM and Western medicine.

AbbreviationsTCMtraditional Chinese medicine

CAMcomplementary and alternative medicine

NHINational Health Insurance

NHIRDNational Health Insurance Research Database

ICD-9-CMInternational Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1472-6963-7-26 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Fang-Pey Chen - Tzeng-Ji Chen - Yen-Ying Kung - Yu-Chun Chen - Li-Fang Chou - Fan-Jou Chen - Shinn-Jang Hwang


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