Traditional medicine updates itself for the 21st century


To remain relevant, TCM practitioners upgraded their facility and started becoming more appealing to all Malaysians.

Failing to evolve often leads to extinction. Science has shown that many prehistoric creatures became extinct after failing to adapt and evolve with their changing environment.

The same can be said for business owners. Failing to evolve in the ever-changing business environment tends not to end well.

Apple Inc is an example of evolving successfully. The company has done more than just evolve, it has reinvented itself and its business model.

The legendary Steve Jobs and his team of experts did not invent anything revolutionary but took existing products and made them better. He contributed greatly to the evolution of laptops, PCs, and how the people consume music.

Apple was so good at what they did that when Apple introduced its all-in-one PCs or lightweight laptops, no one remembers the awkward clunkers that came first. Every other competitor followed suit.

Oil giant Shell started in the trading business, exporting British machinery, textiles and tools to Japan and importing rice, silk, china and copperware to the Middle East and Europe on the return leg. From London, the company traded in commodities such as sugar, flour and wheat worldwide.

Catering not only to the Chinese community, Taipei TCM Medical Centre also has specific treatment rooms for Muslim patients who seek their services.
Catering not only to the Chinese community, Taipei TCM Medical Centre also has specific treatment rooms for Muslim patients who seek their services.

By evolving, the founders built the world’s first bulk oil tanker to navigate the Suez Canal in 1892, which made oil delivery extremely efficient. And the rest as they say is history.

The history

Following in the footsteps of these industry giants, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners in Malaysia are changing and developing themselves to remain relevant and competitive in the modern world.

Boasting a historical record that dates back over 2,000 years, it is believed that the origins of traditional Chinese medicine go back more than 5,000 years.

The oldest medical textbook in the world, Hung-Di Nei-Jing or Yellow Emperor’s Cannon of Internal Medicine, is the first written documentation on TCM. It laid the primary foundation for the theories of Chinese medicine and dates back between 800 BC and 200 BC.

This textbook extensively summarises treatment experiences and theories of medicine.

Over the years and through different dynasties, TCM had its ups and downs. In the 1920s the ancient practice started booming and in 1979, the National Association for Chinese Medicine was established in China and many of the traditional texts were edited and republished.

The following year, the World Health Organization released a list of 43 types of pathologies, which can be effectively treated with acupuncture and today, traditional Chinese medicine with its many branches has spread far and wide, gaining popularity in all parts of the world including Malaysia.

In the past, TCM practitioners either operated from their homes or from shops small shops that doubled as their 'pharmacy'. Herbs were kept in traditional vases or pots and most practitioners were not dressed appropriately to treat patients but this is no longer the case
In the past, TCM practitioners either operated from their homes or from small shops. These days, the facilities are far more modern.

Malaysian connection

TCM is believed to have arrived in Malaysia in the 1800s alongside Chinese miners and it has grown ever since.

Today, there are more than 3,000 members in the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia (FCPAAM).

The association was founded in 2001 and is registered under the Health Ministry with over 1,200 doctors of acupuncture.

In the past, TCM practitioners either operated from their homes or small shops that doubled as a grocery shop and pharmacy. Herbs were kept in traditional vases or pots and most TCM practitioners were not suitably dressed to treat patients.

However, over time, to remain relevant, TCM practitioners upgraded their facilities and started becoming more appealing to all Malaysians.

An example of this evolution is Taipei TCM Medical Centre Sdn Bhd.

Australia's largest insurance company QBE has signed a MoU with the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia to insure 3,000 traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.From left Karl Hamann CEO QBE Insurance Bhd, Ng Po Kok President FCPAM and Yap Mum Loong Director Citylife Services.
(From left) Hamann, Ng and Citylife Services director Yap Mum Loong at the signing of the MoU between the FCPAAM and QBE Insurance.

Started over 40 years ago, the centre today has one of the most modern facilities when it comes to traditional Chines medicine in Malaysia.

Catering not only to the Chinese community, Taipei TCM Medical Centre also has specific treatment rooms for Muslim patients.

According to Taipei TCM Medical Centre chief executive officer Lowing Chu, the group invested RM1mil to upgrade the facility.

“We are confident with the business as more Malaysians are becoming more receptive towards traditional medicine,” said Chu.

FCPAAM president Professor Ng Po Kok said Malaysians are also taking the initiative to study in China before opening up a practice.

“Previously, TCM was handed down from one generation to the next, but now those interested in becoming TCM practitioners can enrol in one of the universities in China to study this ancient form of treatment,” he said.

“Upon their return, they invest in proper facilities as they want to improve the image of TCM,” Ng added.

Most TCM facilities these days mirror western clinics and are fully equipped to safeguard a patient’s privacy and well-being.

Modern methods

TCM’s evolving methods and business model is bearing fruit and gaining recognition, as QBE Insurance (Malaysia) Bhd recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the FCPAAM to provide coverage for professional indemnity. The sum insured is either RM250,000 or RM500,000.

QBE Insurance chief executive officer Karl Hamann who signed on behalf of his company said professional indemnity insurance is an essential component of risk management in an environment of increased responsibility and accountability.

“We can provide all the practitioners the assurance of doing business with peace of mind. The scope of the protection includes the practitioner, the threat of litigation and potential damages, thus allowing them to operate confidently,” said Hamann.

“We have done this in different markets before,” he added.

QBE’s maximum protection is for various categories including acupuncture, chiropractic, orthopedic, reflexology, naturopathy, Qi Gong and Tuina.

QBE, which has been around for 125 years, is one of the world’s top 20 general insurance and reinsurance companies. With more than 17,000 people in 43 countries, QBE is looking to insure all TCM practitioners in Malaysia.

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