Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) make diagnoses based solely on clinical
symptoms. This study will evaluate whether TCM practitioners make diagnoses consistently.
TCM is one of the oldest and most widely-used indigenous medical systems in the world. It is
difficult to effectively practice or evaluate TCM outside of its core framework, which
includes a diagnostic system that is more conceptual and less technologically driven than
that of conventional medicine. TCM diagnosis relies entirely on clinical symptoms and signs
that are discerned by the practitioner. The establishment of diagnostic and prescriptive
consistency is crucial for efficacy studies involving individualized treatments within the
TCM framework. This study will examine the consistency of TCM diagnoses and herbal
prescriptions under controlled conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients will be individually evaluated by three TCM
practitioners; the diagnostic and prescriptive behaviors of the practitioners will be
recorded and analyzed to determine: 1) the extent to which two or more TCM practitioners
assign comparable TCM diagnoses to the same RA patients; 2) the extent to which two or more
TCM practitioners prescribe comparable herbal formulas to the same RA patients; and 3) the
extent to which TCM diagnoses are related to conventional clinical assessments and
biomedical tests of RA. Variables that cause inconsistency will be identified and analyzed.
- Rheumatoid arthritis