Let's Talk The Future Of Audiology
By Geoffrey Cooling F.I.B. on the 1st January 2016
Staying Competitive in 2016
New players, tougher market, is the end nigh?
I said in the last article that we need to embrace innovation and emerging technology if we wish to survive. I stand by that statement, if you don't move forward delivering what the consumer wants, in the manner that the consumer wants it, you will not survive. I believe that PSAPs will not do any damage to hearing aid sales, in fact it would be my opinion that if we handle the sales of PSAPs it will actually encourage greater adoption of hearing aids.
I think that no matter what happens we will see a period where every Practice will see a tighter revenue cycle. So what are we to do about it and how can we tighten costs or increase revenue? There are emerging technologies that will allow us to reduce costs, there are also other technologies that may well help us to deliver more qualified leads to our Practices. Let's look at what we have, what is coming down the road, and how we can use it to our benefit.
Verification & Validation
So you have worked hard, you did an excellent test, you have made recommendations, hell the Patient even went with them. Thirty days later, they handed them back. You shrug your shoulders and move on, do you know how much that return for credit cost you? Your time is money, an expenditure of your time for no revenue is the same as you throwing one hundred notes of your favourite currency out the window.
One question, did you verify your fitting? If you aren't verifying your fitting, you are an idiot. I won't hold back on that, you want the hearing aids to stick, fricking verify them gobshite! Visual speech mapping is simple and easy to do, it allows you to see exactly what is going on in the ear and allows the Patient to see it as well. It increases hearing aid satisfaction, adoption and decreases return visits. Why wouldn't you do it?
You need to make sure every hearing aid sticks. You want to cut returns for credit, verify them aids.
Tele-audiology at present is a bit of an unwieldy beast. That is changing rapidly though, for the moment let's just talk about fitting hearing aids and fine tuning them. At least one of the manufacturers is working on an easy system for remote fitting and fine tuning. I would assume the rest are as well, if they aren't, they are short sighted.
We should lobby for this system to become available sooner rather than later. Why? Because it will allow you to reduce clinic time without reducing Patient facing time. It will allow you to deliver a better service to your customers with almost on demand application of your skills.
That is customer service at it's best, not just that, if you are a larger Practice it will allow the most technical member of your team to deliver those online services which will free you or others to see new prospects. That is the best use of your time and energy.
Make yourself the one stop shop for ear level tech
In the changing market place we need to make ourselves the one stop shop for ear level technology. That means that we need to introduce any new technology related to hearing loss or ear level audio that becomes available. That means that we look at every Hearable that comes out with an eye to supplying them, customising them or using them for our benefit. In doing so, we can protect our future and diversify our offerings beyond the traditional. Here are some strategies that will allow you to do so.
Using Apps, & emerging technology
Hey, there's an app for that you know! Apps are ubiquitous, all of the manufacturers are introducing different apps to allow deeper connection and control for the Patient. Using these apps as part of your offering will increase your reputation as the professional to do business with. It will show that you are forward thinking and on top of current technology. It will also allow you to enter into a collaborative process with your customers.
Extra revenue from ancillary devices
All of the manufacturers supply ancillary wireless devices and assistive devices. You should be using them to encourage sales and deliver extra revenue. Again this allows you to be recognised as the go to professional for all things hearing. The use of this type of strategy broadens your appeal and your offerings.
Noise protection, earphones & custom earphones
Put some real time into these offerings, use your Website to drive them and attract non traditional customers to your Practice. Earphones & custom fit earphones are attractive for a certain demographic, that demographic is online and searching, meet them there and entice them to your Practice.
Custom fit noise protection is another winner, use your authority in your area, write to companies who may see the benefit of them and offer your services, hell advertise them on your website strongly and they may well come to you.
Design a campaign around them, get some posters printed up advertising your custom noise protection products and ask local companies and firing ranges to put them up in their staff and public areas.
Adopting hearing test apps
I think it is important that we consider the adoption of apps for hearing tests. I know it may be anathema to some, but the intelligent use of these type of apps may well lead to an increased amount of qualified leads. Encouraging the use of such apps works to raise the profile of hearing health. It will also allow people to be more aware of their hearing. In fact if deployed well and used correctly, they may well be an exceptional source of prospect leads.
Unitron delivered their hearing test app a couple of years ago and they are in the process of updating it. Their new offering should be delivered this year and I believe it could be used for lead generation if deployed properly. I have been badgering them with not much luck for two years to build it in html5 so I can embed or deploy it on customer Website.
I have watched with interest a new entrant to the market in the UK, HearScreener. In essence they deploy stand alone hearing screener devices that collect lead data that they then work to turn into appointments for their customers. That is a very simplified explanation of what they do believe me. I will do an article on them soon because they are doing some pretty amazing things using technology they have developed for purpose. It is unlike anything else and the results are seriously impressive. they are in fact a proof of concept for the strategy. I think it is time that we considered how we can use this type of technology to our own benefit.
Hey this isn't an exhaustive article, the main point I want you to take from this article is that we need to be nimble, we need to assess how we can use new tech to deliver a better experience, a more collaborative experience. We need to embrace innovation, not fear it and we need to make sure that we become the one stop shop, the place to go, the singular authority on ear level technology.