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October 2021

Altern Ther Health Med. 1997 Jan; 3(1): 33-9.

Systematic clinical auditing in complementary medicine: rationale, concept, and a pilot study.

Melchart D, Linde K, Liao JZ, Hager S, Weidenhammer W.

Projekt Münchener Modell, Technische Universität, Munich, Germany.

A scientific evaluation of complementary medical practices commonly used in healthcare is urgently required. Although randomized clinical trials are the primary tool for such an evaluation, for a number of conceptual and pragmatic reasons, they should not be the only tool. The authors propose systematic clinical auditing as a concept to (1) provide information on the "epidemiology" of complementary medical practices, (2) make the processes used in the daily practice of these complementary methods clearly intelligible, and (3) give a preliminary estimation of outcomes. Systematic clinical auditing uses mainly observational studies of large samples of patients. A pilot study was conducted to investigate the feasibility of using a systematic clinical audit in a hospital for traditional Chinese medicine in Germany. All 1597 patients admitted between February 1, 1992, and August 31, 1993, were included in the study. Patients' characteristics, diagnoses, and preventive and therapeutic interventions were recorded, and patients were asked to rate the intensity of their main complaints (on scale of 1 to 10) at admission; at discharge; and at 2, 6, and 12 months after admission. About two thirds of all patients had chronic pain complaints; the most common diagnosis was migraine (n = 244). Nearly all patients received acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy; 61% received tuina massages, and 16% received qigong. The mean intensity of main complaints was 7.0 (2.0, SD) at admission, 4.6 (2.4) at discharge, and 5.5 (2.7) 12 months after admission. In the authors' opinion, systematic clinical auditing is a valuable tool for collecting basic information on structural characteristics, processes, and outcomes in complementary medicine and for determining representative and relevant questions for future randomized clinical trials.

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