A New Medium

As technology continues to grow and change, and hold a stronger influence over our daily lives, it’s easy to become nervous about a machine taking over your job. But telehealth isn’t here to make you obsolete, it’s simply a new medium to expand care. It’s a way of delivering services outside of the old fashion brick and mortar model. A broader range of support and services adds more value to what audiologists are already doing.

Extending the client relationship

A relationship with a client can begin through telehealth before his or her first appointment. By providing information, the person with hearing loss will be ready and informed when they arrive at the appointment with the audiologist. The Royal Surrey County NHS Hospital includes a Q&A on every service they provide.

What can you put on your website for first-time clients?

·         General information about the appointment

·         Online questionnaires/in-take forms

·         Self-assessments – why is the client coming in?

As your client continues along his or her journey, they may need more direct contact with you. It is an advantage to both of you if it is not necessary for the client to come in to the clinic every time he or she has a question. In other areas of healthcare, we can already see how clinicians are performing house calls from their clinics. Take, for example, the Giraff home healthcare robot:

Also, take note that the Giraff was originally designed for corporate communications, not healthcare. Even robots have to adapt!

Tele-health on mobiles

Tele-audiology doesn't need to be as futuristic as robots, it can utilize technology that already exists, that your clients are probably already using everyday. Ida Advisory Board member DeWet Swanepoel shared the below video of an app developed by the University of Pretoria in South Africa, that conducts hearing screenings through a mobile phone using a digits-in-noise speech-in-noise test:

Case study: Australian Hearing

For more complex tasks, it is possible to connect clinics to others that might not offer all of the same services. This is a way to reach marginalized and remote groups and make quality care universal. Frances Lockhart shared how Australian Hearing are already doing this:

"We have been using Tele-Health in Australian Hearing for five years. We use it regularly to see complex pediatric clients and aided children in a regional city clinic, using a trained clinical assistant some 1000-2000kM's from where the specialist pediatric audiologist is. We also use it to assist junior clinicians with more complex cases or to program hearing aids or implantable devices. We have used it for auditory skills training for severely deaf adults.

"The client still comes into a clinic but that clinic is very close to their home. We also use phone calls as follow up appointments and to trouble shoot when it is easier for the client. We use 4G wireless hubs where there is no cabled internet, webcams and video otoscopes as well as the usual audiological equipment, and some of our manufacturers use Teamviewer to assist with appointments. There are a few extremely remote areas that we manage entirely face-to-face as they aren't really appropriate for Teleaud just yet."

"The whole process continues to be an ongoing change management exercise and required six years of constant adaptation and integration with other areas of our business such as IT and learning and development as well as co-operation with manufacturers. Once clinicians see what it is and observe appointments there is usually no problem.

"I wouldn't say there aren't any challenges, but it is more to do with the mindsets of people not exposed to the processes rather than the ability of the technology to provide the best care to clients no matter where they live in a very spread out continent."

Whatever telehealth method is used to reach out to a client, you will be increasing your communication and building a relationship that will promote positive, long-term outcomes.