Published: August 24, 2022

The relationship between the patient and practitioner is important in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). A good patient-practitioner relationship is crucial not only for optimal results but also for the growth, regulation, and integrity of the TCM field as a whole. Professionalism and patient relationships are important for establishing patient and public trust in practitioners and Eastern medicine. 

Creating discussions that emphasize the importance of patient relationships is becoming more vital as TCM and Eastern medicine become more widespread and are seen as vital sources of health and wellness. In this blog, we’ll be discussing why it’s important for TCM practitioners to prioritize patient relationships with insights from Dr. Winston Cardwell, ND.

The Role of TCM Practitioner-Patient Relationships in Business

Many practitioners with their own practice know the importance of focusing on the service and the business sides of their endeavor in order to have a successful TCM practice. However, part of running a successful practice with a strong foundation is building and fostering relationships with each patient. Patients are the bread and butter of any practice. When one focuses on positive patient relationships, a new patient will become a recurring patient.

In fact, one of the best marketing tools for Dr. Cardwell’s practice has been developing strong relationships with his patients.

Cardwell states, “…work hard, don’t promise something that you can’t deliver on, but do the best that you can and show up every day and be straightforward and honest. Those are qualities patients will recognize, and they’ll come back, and they’ll tell friends about it. We really don’t do any marketing. We have a website; that’s really it.”

It’s easy for a lot of practitioners to go into business with their own practice and then feel overwhelmed with the business and marketing side of things when they just want to focus on helping their patients. Marketing can be a struggle if one doesn’t have the right resources or the budget to outsource the work. 

Whether it’s a lack of marketing experience, budget, or resources to hire help, practitioners can make the marketing side of their practice simple by prioritizing the patient relationship. When practitioners have stellar patient relationships and are helping patients stay healthy and happy, the business pretty much markets itself. Cardwell’s advice from his own experience is, “The most important thing is to focus on the relationship with the patients and make it the best that you can. Be there with patients as they need, and the business will grow by itself.”.

How to Improve Patient Relationships

We’ve now established the importance of prioritizing practitioner-patient relationships and how it affects the business and marketing aspect of having a practice. But how can practitioners start improving their patient relationships? When asking Dr. Cardwell how practitioners can do so, he made it clear that the first step is communication. 

“Communicating with the patient, what your expectations are, and making sure you understand what the patients are looking for in that relationship and what their goals are, and honoring their path,” Cardwell says. 

Many patients and their concerns are pushed aside by doctors or practitioners, leaving them feeling unheard and as if their needs aren’t met. Some patients may only want to do herbs, while others may prefer to try a path that includes a combination of methods. As long as it’s safe and appropriate, it’s always a good idea to honor a patient’s wants and to communicate and collaborate to create the best possible treatment path. 

After strong communication has been established, the second way practitioners can improve patient relationships is by showing genuine compassion. This can include checking in on them regularly, making sure they’re okay the day after their appointment, etc. Cardwell says, “Those little things can go a long way.”

The Bottom Line

While the steps it takes to prioritize and improve patient relationships may seem simple, they can take a practitioner and their business a long way toward building a strong reputation. The more Chinese herbal medicine practitioners prioritize patient relationships; the more widespread TCM can continue to grow as a powerful and reputable source of health and healing. 

At KPC, we’re passionate about helping students and practitioners gain the resources and information they need to continue the tradition of TCM and excel in their careers. Subscribe to our mailing list for updates from the world of TCM, KPC news, and tips and tools for a successful practice.


*Please note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to suggest specific treatments for patients or that any supplements mentioned prevent or cure diseases or problems. Before taking any herbs, all patients should discuss their options with a licensed practitioner, including any other medications the patient is currently taking, as there may be contraindications between pharmaceuticals and herbs.


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