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Background: The diagnostic framework and clinical reasoning process in Chinese medicine emphasizes the contextual and qualitative nature of a patient's illness. Chinese medicine assessment data may help interpret clinical outcomes. Objectives: As part of a study aimed at assessing the validity and improving the inter-rater reliability of the Chinese diagnostic process, a structured assessment instrument was developed for use in clinical trials of acupuncture and other Chinese medical therapies. Study design: To foster collaboration and maximize resources and information, an interdisciplinary advisory team was assembled. Under the guidance of two group process facilitators, and in order to establish whether the assessment instrument was consistent with accepted Chinese medicine diagnostic categories (face validity) and included the full range of each concept's meaning (content validity), a panel of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) expert clinicians was convened and their responses were organized using the Delphi process, an iterative, anonymous, idea-generating and consensus-building process. An aggregate rating measure was obtained by taking the mean of mean ratings for each question across all 10 experts. Results: Over three rounds, the overall rating increased from 7.4 (SD = 1.3) in Round 1 to 9.1 (SD = 0.5) in Round 3. The level of agreement among clinicians was measured by a decrease in SD. Conclusions: The final instrument TEAMSI-TCM (Traditional East Asian Medicine Structured Interview, TCM version) uses the pattern differentiation model characteristic of TCM. This modular, dynamic version was specifically designed to assess women, with a focus on gynecologic conditions; with modifications it can be adapted for use with other populations and conditions. TEAMSI-TCM is a prescriptive instrument that guides clinicians to use the proper indicators, combine them in a systematic manner, and generate conclusions. In conjunction with treatment manualization and training it may serve to increase inter-rater reliability and inter-trial reproducibility in Chinese medicine clinical trials. Testing of the validity and reliability of this instrument currently is underway.
Objective To explore participants’ experience in placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials (RCTs) specifically in relationship to their expectations. Background Aspects of being in RCTs, such as informed consent, perception of benefit and understanding of randomization, have been examined. In contrast, little is known concerning the formation of patient expectations before and during trials. Methods Qualitative methods using in-depth interviews with a semi-structured interview guide of nine patients from four different RCTs. Data analysis was conducted using a codebook format arranging participant responses under broad analytical headings. The interviewer used a semi-structured interview guide to direct the conversation from one broad topic to the next within the context of the ongoing conversation. A checklist of topics encouraged participants to describe their experiences in RCTs. Narratives concerning expectation, blinding and placebo were compared to identify common themes. Results Patient anticipatory processes were influenced and modified both before and during the trial from multiple inputs. Such factors as past experiences in RCTs, past experiences of ineffective treatment, stress of being off regular medications, fear of being a ‘placebo responder’, input of non-study doctors or other health professionals, the experience of other participants, measurements of health parameters made during the trial and the presence or absence of side-effects all affected patient expectation. Conclusion Expectations in RCTs are not fixed and instead may be viewed as continuously shaped by multiple inputs that include experience and information received both before and during the trial. Variability in placebo response observed in previous studies may be related to the fluid nature of expectations. Trying to control and equalize expectations in RCTs may be more difficult than previously assumed.
Evidence that placebo acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain presents a puzzle: how do placebo needles appearing to patients to penetrate the body, but instead sitting on the skin’s surface in the manner of a tactile stimulus, evoke a healing response? Previous accounts of ritual touch healing in which patients often described enhanced touch sensations (including warmth, tingling or flowing sensations) suggest an embodied healing mechanism. In this qualitative study, we asked a subset of patients in a singleblind randomized trial in irritable bowel syndrome to describe their treatment experiences while undergoing placebo treament. Analysis focused on patients’ unprompted descriptions of any enhanced touch sensations (e.g., warmth, tingling) and any significance patients assigned to the sensations. We found in 5/6 cases, patients associated sensations including “warmth” and “tingling” with treatment efficacy. The conclusion offers a “neurophenomenological” account of the placebo effect by considering dynamic effects of attentional filtering on early sensory cortices, possibly underlying the phenomenology of placebo acupuncture.