As more and more aspects of daily life go digital, we now know that tele-health isn't a possible, but a definite way services will be delivered. The virtual branch of your practice is an opportunity to involve and inform your clients while individualizing your treatment plan for them. Think of your website not only as a source of practical information, but also as an opportunity to extend person-centered care and rehabilitation into the web. It is a way for you to share resources, encourage the participation of people with hearing loss and their partners, and reinforce behaviors that will lead to long-term, positive outcomes.
Person-centered care in your virtual space can manifest in different ways. It means making relevant information easily accessible, but it also means considering what is most important to your clients, just as you would in an appointment when making suggestions for treatment. Louise Hickson, at the outset of our Tele-health meetings, identified informing and involving clients in their care and individualizing that care as the most important aspects of virtual audiology:
Regardless of how big or small your practice is, or how far along you are in your use of tele-health, your website sends a message of professionalism and person-centeredness the same way the organization of your office does. It is also a way of telling your clients that you are accessible – by making your contact information clear, by providing information about the different kinds of hearing loss, and by helping to set their expectations for what takes place during an appointment. Including photos of the staff will also make your practice more personable, and allow first-time visitors to put a face to a name before they arrive.
Including a frequently asked questions section on your site is a good way to anticipate clients' and potential clients’ concerns – as well as highlighting information you would like them know before their appointment. These educational materials can also help ease apprehensive clients’ anxieties if they can put a name to their concerns before they meet with you, and allows them to take an active role in the decision-making process of their treatment. If you are using tele-health for fittings or follow-up appointments, be sure to include information about this so clients are prepared. It may be the first time they encounter this technology. This priming effect will result in more efficient, productive appointments. You can also include your intake forms on your website for the client to fill out before arriving at the office. This will streamline the tasks and help make visits more efficient. Consider what a client or potential client would find if they searched for you online. The fastest way to boost your practice in online search results is to set up social media pages such as Facebook and Yelp, which always rank highly in searches. This will also be an easy way for clients to find your address, phone number, email, and opening hours. Remember that online communication is especially important for those with a hearing loss who might be reluctant to use the phone.
YourHearing has a call to action to motivate people to check their hearing. Their website explains different kinds of hearing loss and stresses finding the right solution for each individual.
If you are looking to reach a broader client base, be sure to include a useful call to action on all of your web platforms. Allowing them to do a self-assessment of their hearing through your website could be the final push they need to make an appointment with an audiologist. You want to encourage people with hearing loss to improve their communication, to take action now, and to be able to live well regardless of their hearing loss. Remember, it’s not about having a flashy, stylized website, it’s about motivating your clients, helping them manage their condition and maintain strong relationships with you and others in the hearing loss community.