Written by Cliff Korn, LMT

As a therapist operating my own practice, I am constantly conscious of the ethical aspects of my work in dealing with situations involving clients/patients and the everyday running of my business. Professional boundaries and ethical practices are recognized within all health professions as an important aspect of our work, as evidenced by mandatory classes on ethics in most states, and also by the clearly stated ethical codes and practices set out by professional organizations. The reasoning behind these measures is clear. They set standards of integrity. They help to define health professions and have significant repercussions on how professional care givers are perceived by the public.

As a massage therapist, I am a supporter of the Massage Therapy Foundation which has as one of its goals to support the evidence-informed practice of therapeutic massage and bodywork based upon available research, client factors, and practitioner experience and judgment. I propose that it is the ethical responsibility of every health practitioner to embody evidence-informed practice, and, more importantly, the responsibility of every patient to demand it of their professional care givers. A practitioner unaware of current research on effectiveness of provided care inadvertently may make false claims regarding the potential benefits of the treatment rendered. This is at best misleading to consumers.

Considering the increasing quantity and importance of research in healthcare and application of professional ethics, it is apparent that keeping up to date with research findings should be an ethical responsibility. The old term was “evidence-based medicine.” That has morphed into “evidence-informed practice” which takes into consideration the research evidence that exists as well as patient preference and clinical experience. Evidence-informed practice should provide outcome expectations against which progress can be measured. When visiting any professional care giver, I think patients have an intrinsic right to demand assurance that the practitioner will provide one-on-one assessment and treatment with enough time to thoroughly assess their problem and provide a treatment that works. You should receive treatment based on research and experience. This approach is “evidence-informed” practice.

The savvy patient will partner with caregivers who rely on evaluation, needs assessments and logic modeling. The prudent patient will demand that any chosen practitioner be truthful in advertising and marketing and refrain from misrepresenting his or her services, charges for services, credentials, training, experience, ability or results. That practitioner must be engaged in evidence-based practice to give you that assurance.

New research findings may uncover therapeutic benefits that we never before determined. Conversely, some things caregivers have been taught have been overturned by the latest research. For example, many massage therapists had been taught that massage releases lactic acid from muscle tissue after exercise; research has shown this to be untrue. The sports massage therapist explaining that the usefulness of post-event therapy to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness due to lactic acid dissemination is doing a disservice to his/her client. It may do marvelous things, but the elimination of lactic acid isn’t one of them! Similar “truths” in chiropractic, acupuncture and allopathic medicine have also been debunked. The more you as a patient know, the more you can protect yourself from bogus claims. Demand evidence-informed practice from your caregivers – you’ll get more value for your healthcare dollar and better care.

Cliff Korn, LMT

Cliff Korn is a licensed massage therapist who, in addition to serving on the Health Resources Committee of the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce, is owner of and a practitioner at Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He serves his profession statewide as a Vice President of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association. Nationally he is on the board of the Commission of Massage Therapy Accreditation, and is a Trustee of the Massage Therapy Foundation. He can be reached at (603) 894-6402 or at [email protected]

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