Get started with remote appointments

By Helle Gjønnes Møller

Increased convenience. Easy involvement of family and loved ones. Immediate access to the home environment. The benefits to online appointments are many. Yet, despite the obvious perks, many hearing care professionals are still hesitant to take the plunge.  

With this in mind, the Ida Institute has created the Online Appointments Starter Kit. The kit helps professionals deliver remote appointments while maintaining a close and person-centered connection with their clients. 

Staying person-centered in a virtual setting

Since early 2020, COVID-19 has spurred a steady transition to virtual healthcare. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, many consumers appreciate the added benefits of remote appointments. In July 2021, telehealth had in fact increased by a factor of 38 compared to the pre-COVID baseline, according to McKinsey.

This behavior shift has also impacted the field of audiology. In early 2021, the Ida Institute’s Future Hearing Journeys report revealed that a key consumer hope for the future is having the option to choose between physical appointments, remote care, and hybrid offerings. Likewise, the number one opportunity identified by professionals for future hearing care was telehealth.

However, despite the great interest, the transition from a face-to-face interaction to a virtual setting still raises technical and practical questions, and many hearing care professionals are unsure how to make the leap. A common concern is the ability to provide tailored and person-centered counseling in a digital environment. 

Close from afar

The Online Appointments Starter Kit addresses this concern by providing hearing care professionals with practical tips for how to engage with their clients online. Through articles, checklists, and videos of virtual clinical encounters, the starter kit takes professionals through the key steps of planning, offering, and delivering appointments online. The kit includes concrete tips from professionals who are already doing online appointments successfully.

“What we’ve seen these past few years is that online appointments can actually strengthen the client-clinician relationship, and in some instances enable counseling that is even more person-centered than in-person consultations,” says Ena Nielsen, Associate Director of the Ida Institute. “With our new resource, we give professionals the confidence they need to make the transition and practical tips to support them along the way.”

Dr. Trevor Menchenton, co-owner and clinical audiologist at Audiocorp in New Brunswick, Canada, is one of the many audiologists who began offering remote care during the pandemic. Initially, Menchenton was reluctant; nervous that he would see poor outcomes and lose the personal connection with his clients. But since the pandemic began, he has experienced the benefits first-hand — and he is now a big fan and encourages others to get started: “Instead of being anxious of the challenges of tele-audiology, think of the immense benefits from the patient perspective — not only the time savings and convenience, but also leveling out the power balance that exists when patients are in a clinician’s office.”

Optimal results in a telehealth setting

Initial reviews of the Online Appointments Starter Kit have been exceedingly positive, stressing its timeliness and relevancy. Dr. De Wet Swanepoel, Professor of Audiology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa and a leading thinker in remote hearing care, said, “The Online Appointments Starter Kit includes practical person-centered resources that are spot-on for every clinician using tele-audiology. In typical Ida style, the kit includes real-world examples and ready-to-use tools that make it easy to incorporate telehealth services.”

Christine Hunter, former President of the patient advocacy group Hearing Matters Australia, said, “The starter kit provides a wonderful framework from which to offer best practice hearing care – and a way of achieving optimal results for clients in a telehealth setting.”

The starter kit is freely available here.