How can you engage communication partners?
Although research has shown that having communication partners attend the appointments can improve outcomes, it is still not a standard practice. This may be because audiologists don’t consider including communication partners in the consultation or simply because the partners themselves don’t think to come.
While family members may be key in motivating people to address their hearing loss, they may not have a clear understanding of what happens after the initial visit to the audiologist. Many communication partners believe that a hearing aid will be the beginning and the end of the solution to their loved one’s hearing loss. In fact, by continuing to attend appointments after the hearing aid is fitted, family members have an opportunity to develop realistic expectations of what rehabilitation is needed to improve communication – and how they can contribute to the success of that process.
To promote family-centered care and evaluate its effects, Ida Advisory Board member Louise Hickson is working with Ida Institute Senior Audiologist Melanie Gregory on an RTC. Ida Faculty Member Christopher Lind, and Ida Fellows Carly Meyer and Nerina Scarinci are also collaborating on the project, which is funded by a grant from the William Demant Foundation.
The project will center around an entire clinic, training audiologists, receptionists, and other staff on what it means to deliver family-centered care. This will include pre-appointment interventions such as reinforcing the importance of a family member not only accompanying the person with hearing loss to appointments but coming prepared to participate.
“We acknowledge that it’s difficult to change practice,” says Nerina. “We’re going to be using the Change Guide as the framework in our training. We’re going to be talking about all the different Ida tools that audiologists can use in a family-centered care hearing healthcare program, such as the GPS, the Line and the Communication Rings. So many of the Ida Tools can be applied for use with both the person with hearing loss and the communication partner.”
Many audiologists readily acknowledge the value of including communication partners but face obstacles in their clinics that make them reluctant to change their practice. The myths that hinder audiologists from implementing patient-centered care – that it’s too time consuming or too emotional – are barriers to overcome. The project team is optimistic that audiologists can be influenced to re-think family-centered care and the way they structure appointments.
“We don’t want them to see family centered care as an addition to what they normally do,” says Nerina. “It is going to be what they do.”