Cultural Probes – Charmaine and Stephanie

After much discussion, Charmaine and I decided to focus on the TCM practice as we felt that it was a gap that is being overlooked by the younger generation. However, we both saw the value in preserving this practice as our Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong noted that as our population ages, TCM will potentially be able to meet the healthcare needs of the elderly as they tend to fuse Western and Eastern medical care. Our Health Ministry has also allocated extra funding to develop and support the Traditional Chinese Medicine sector and this includes S$5 million over the next five years for the TCM Research Grant. 

This also led us to think about how we can make TCM more appealing to the younger generation as Derrick had also pointed out that the younger generation generally only seeks TCM for sports injuries like sprains.

Cultural Probe Kit

Cultural Probes:
We designed a cultural probe and requested the help of Dr Soh to complete it. The probe consists of two “worksheets” for Dr Soh to fill in. One is focused specifically on him as a TCM practitioner and the services that he provides, tools he needs for his practice and his pain points. The other one focuses on the home visit patients and consists of questions that document the services that he provides for home visit patients, tools required and their pain points as well as any additional comments and feedback that he has received from them. 

In addition, we provided an MRT map and stickers, asking him to mark out the area of his patients’ place where he has to travel to as well as the clinic that he practices in to see how much he had to travel.

Lastly, a pen was provided as well as a notepad for additional notes that he has with regards to his practice.

Dr Soh noted that the services provided in the patient’s home is limited as compared to the services in the clinic. He said that internal treatment, which refers to something that is similar to a usual visit to a doctor to diagnose ailments for the stomach or respiratory system or sicknesses such as flu, fevers is limited for home visits as the practitioner is unable to carry all the medications that can range up to 60-70 different types.

Pain Points:
The pain points Dr Soh wrote was mainly for the house visits as he mentioned that generally practicing TCM in the clinic itself is conducive as everything is at reach. However, for house visits, due to limited bag space, he could only limit the tools to bring along based on patients’ description of their illnesses to him prior to their appointment through phone calls or Whatsapp. Because there is no standard TCM bag, it sometimes can be disorganized and troublesome to have so many tools contained in his personal bag pack with limited slots that are catered to TCM tools. 
His bag was often heavy. He also talked about how certain treatments are limited such as the electrolysis machines stimulation due to difficulties in finding a power source that is of reach to the area where he carries out the treatment during house visits

He noted that his patients generally did not have any complaints about receiving treatment at home, and services like acupuncture and cupping is done on the patient’s bed. Dr Soh said that these patients are in their own homes and hence are in an environment that they are already familiar and comfortable with.

Our thoughts and findings:
We felt that there is definitely a gap that is overlooked for TCM practitioners. Photographers have special bags that are designed for their convenience and comfort, why do TCM practitioners not have that? This need was something that we can potentially meet if we could make a portable TCM studio for these TCM practitioners. Furthermore, in order to elevate the patient’s treatment experience, we wanted to not just increase their comfort during this treatment process, but rather create an environment that is something similar to a spa or massage experience to elevate the status of TCM as just an Eastern medical practice. 

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