Fit for the Future
A key characteristic of success in any area of life is the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
It’s been three years since the Ida Institute launched its Vision 2020 process when we first began a dialogue with hearing care professionals about the changing nature of audiology. In that time, change hasn’t slowed down and the need for hearing care professionals to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and re-emphasize the value and importance of hearing care has escalated. Once viewed as a “distant future” scenario, the market of prescription-free hearables is here and growing. Stores like Costco in the US are now selling hearing technologies at cut-rate prices, and people have the ability to order hearing aids online without ever being evaluated by a hearing care professional.
Which of these future trends are you ready for?
The Consumer Imperative
It is not only technology and market channels that are changing hearing healthcare. Patients and clients are demanding more from their hearing care professionals. People with hearing loss expect personalized treatment, an ongoing relationship with their hearing care professional, and care that extends beyond the clinic through telehealth. And research is backing these demands.
In June, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in the United States (previously the Institute of Medicine) released their report, Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability. The report listed 12 recommendations that were overwhelming rooted in person-centered care and included improving hearing healthcare access, information, and affordability. Similarly, the NHS in the UK released their Action Plan on Hearing Loss in 2015 detailing the measures needed across different services to improve hearing healthcare across the lifespan.
Preparing for Change: HearUSA’s Approach
HearUSA is an organization of “nearly 4,000 independently operating hearing care professionals” with a standardized protocol to help its network stay up-to-date with the changing world of audiology. That includes a strong professional development component.
“As experts in our field, we have to sharpen our skills across all career aspects and that includes both service and quality,” says Cindy Beyer, the Vice President of Professional Services, via email. “The advantage of a professional appointment with a licensed provider is that the patient can experience so much more than the web can provide. The human connection is so powerful. We must use our clinical time wisely and effectively to… establish credibility and value that exceeds their expectations.”
“I believe engagement is very important. Involving the patient and family member in the process and allowing them to see, hear and feel along the way creates a bond, develops interest, and earns commitment,” she continues. “Our innate personalities often lend us to be either great communicators or skilled clinicians, and it may not come naturally to combine those left brain/right brain tendencies. We have to work very hard to incorporate the many skills and talents that are required in our profession. It’s about exceeding expectations and creating a memorable event that our patients describe in three syllables – outstanding, excellent, fantastic, exciting, amazing!”
HearUSA sees technology as an important way to improve services. The organization gives providers a way to participate in continuing education through web-based trainings, and offers telehealth for the convenience of their audiologists and clients.
“We have invested in telehealth capabilities and are pleased that we can offer these services in our hearing centers,” says Cindy. “Telehealth offers convenience and another layer of professional expertise, and helps us to overcome distance and staffing issues. It’s an important part of the future.”
My Future Plan
To empower hearing care professionals to plan their own future-proofing efforts on any scale, Ida Institute created Fit for the Future. The online resource helps hearing care professionals to reframe how they think about their field and to view changes as opportunities for growth.
“Even seismic changes in the field can have long term, positive effects, if we are prepared to meet them head on,” says Ida Managing Director Lise Lotte Bundesen. “Fit for the Future is a signpost along this change journey and a way to map out a plan for future success.”
Vision 2020 details different ways hearing care professionals can prepare their practices for the coming changes in the field. Vision 2020 focuses on three key areas: The Workspace, Telehealth, and Relating in New Ways. The information provided ranges from abstract ideas to inspire futuristic thinking to instructions and concrete plans for making real practice changes.
My Future Plan offers a checklist of suggestions related to the Vision 2020. Items on the checklist can be as simple as redecorating the waiting room to make it more comfortable for patients or as involved as integrating new technologies that make it possible to practice teleaudiology. Each item links to a page with more detailed information and recommendations. Hearing care professionals can choose the items they want to change in their practice, make notes, and print a PDF of the checklist to post in the clinic for inspiration.
Keeping Pace with Changing World of Audiology
Fit for the Future is intended to evolve just as audiology itself continues to change. The flexibility of the tools will allow it to be updated as new trends emerge and once-new trends become the norm.
“We are fortunate to have access to a global network of professionals in Ida community who help us keep abreast of the changes and challenges they are experiencing in their practice,” add Lise Lotte. “Through our collaboration with them, we will keep our ear to the ground and aspire to share new and relevant future-proofing strategies that can benefit hearing care practices large and small.”