24-Hour "Technical Support" Needed?
Few of us would purchase an expensive software package without customer and technical support being offered. Perhaps this same support is needed with acupuncture clinical cases and treatment recommendations? After my experience designing and publishing treatments for obesity and xerostomia, I realized that this online service should be provided to the "customer." I have now become the "24-hour Customer and Technical Support Hotline" for my published clinical protocols. Using the successful model of many software companies, I redesigned my website (www.n5ev.com) so that clinicians can click on information for downloading. Unfortunately, my "customers" sometimes had difficulties using their computer and could not achieve a download. I then placed the articles into "pdf" files. When this failed, my fax machine was my tool of choice, or, if all else failed, I resorted to snail mail.
Unfortunately, some "end users" employing my acupuncture techniques experienced a clinical "crash." It soon became apparent that technical support was needed to walk the end user through basic point and needle techniques.
Other clinicians modified my protocols even before their implementation. Unfortunately, they experienced a clinical "hang-up" and once again, "technical support" came to the rescue to "reboot" and "undelete" their clinical woes.
I was careful to make appropriate "fixes" to my website when necessary and ran "clinical upgrades and patches." As a result, "customer feedback" reported that they were "up and running" and did not experience any more "crashes." I complied with several users who wanted an "on-site visit." In all cases, the problem was non-adherence to protocol instructions: the needles were placed in the wrong position or some were extraneous. Once "reformatted," the clinical protocol "booted up" immediately.
It is my firm belief that authors should have a website where their clinical protocols have "24-hour customer and technical support." "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) and "updated" papers that the author(s) have published elsewhere would be in one place, thus avoiding "thumb-nailing" through other journals. The articles would have "patches" and "upgrades" to reflect improvements made in technique. "User comments and suggestions" may help avoid the clinical "dreaded blue screen."
As we all know, acupuncture is a complicated technique. Misinterpretation of protocols, insufficient knowledge, and lack of clinical skills are, unfortunately, as widespread as computer viruses. A website that would offer this assistance would be very similar to the "support" found on many software and hardware manufacturer websites. Why not one for acupuncture? This conception may avoid the dreaded clinical "unsuccessful program execution" and the frustration of getting one's practice back "on-line." And for those needing further assistance, live or automated technical support could be available.
Perhaps this journal and its readers may wish to explore this conception. It certainly would be a first in the acupuncture specialty to establish a devoted website for "technical support." I was surprised that my own website had over 19,000 hits in several years. The majority of clinical case reports end with a conclusion that "more research is usually needed," and it is rare that we hear of follow-up. Instead, it is conceivable that we would better serve our readers by concluding with a similar statement: "24-hour technical support, updates, and clinical feedback regarding this paper may be found on the Internet at www.acupsupport.com."
— Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH
Dr Richard C. Niemtzow is a Radiation Oncologist and Colonel in the United States Air Force. He is the Chief Medical Consultant for Alternative Medicine for the Air Force Surgeon General. In addition to his research activities, Dr Niemtzow practices Medical Acupuncture full-time at Malcolm Grow Medical Center, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. He is President of the Medical Acupuncture Research Foundation (MARF).
Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH
9800 Cherry Hill Rd
College Park, MD 2074089
Phone: 301-937-7424 • Fax: 301-937-3205
Colonel (Dr) Richard C. Niemtzow
Medical Group (AMC)
Malcolm Grow Medical Center
Andrews AFB, MD 20762
Note: This conception by the author first appeared in an editorial entitled "Complementary and Alternative Medicine: 24-Hour Technical
Support Needed?" in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice, and Policy. Oct 2002;
Vol 8/ No 5:527-528.