What Can We Learn From The Intricon, HI Initiative?

Is there lessons we can learn from the Intricon-HI initiative?

By Geoffrey Cooling

Holly Hosford-Dunn wrote an interesting article recently (IntriCon + HI HealthInnovation: How’s That Workin’ Out?) that appeared to show that the relationship was not exceptionally profitable. There was a lot of fear, hysteria and in some cases down right nuttiness around the announcement of the beginning of this relationship. Some people within the industry were predicting the end of times, it would have been funny if you weren’t cognisant of the underlying fear that spurred such worries.

But, as often is the case, it appears that this new distribution model was neither as disruptive or as profitable as it was thought to be. I think it is worth our while to consider why, why was this distribution model a failure? More importantly what can we learn about the motivation of prospective Patients? The model itself seemed sound, distribution of lower priced hearing instruments via a modern mail order model. What is not to like? Cheaper than normal hearing instruments, reduced amounts of hassle to acquire them.

Tested in the comfort of your own home via an internet portal, delivery of a set of instruments in a couple of days, hearing nirvana no? Well no actually, we as professionals know that this will not be the case. More importantly most Patients and prospective Patients know this too. In fact it quickly became obvious that prospective Patients knew this, many of them made enquiries in relation to support provided by Audiological Practices. When they found out that there was little or none, they voted with their dollars, or in the case of the model, didn’t.

So lesson one, service and support from qualified professionals is key in the mind of Patients. Yeah, but we knew that right? But do we really understand that and the further ramifications of that decision. The one attractive and much vaunted KSP of the initiative was the low low price for allegedly quality hearing instruments. A very attractive price by any measure, a fantastic price for the alleged technology level, but they still didn’t go for it.  I think that is the key message, that is one of the key learning points we should take from this.

Price is not everything

Even with a very attractive low price, service, support and efficacy concerns trumped. What does that mean to us and what lessons may we take from it? I think it gives us real focus, your pricing while important is not everything, your service and support is probably more important. With that clearly in mind, you can re-focus on what matters to your prospective Patients, that clear understanding will allow you to focus your marketing, your Practice management, your commercial offering on that clear concept. What do you think and what have you learned from the Intricon-HI experiment?

Regards

Geoff

About Geoffrey Cooling

my name is Geoffrey Cooling and I am the author here at Just Audiology Stuff. I have been involved in the Hearing Healthcare Profession for several years now. I initially worked as a Hearing Healthcare Professional for a large national retailer in Ireland. After several years in Practice I was approached to work for a manufacturer, where I was employed for five years. I am now the Co Founder of a business called Audiology Engine. We design websites, undertake content marketing and generally look after everything digital for audiological practices. I am also a contributor to many hearing profession periodicals and websites. I have written two commercially available books, The Little Book of Hearing Aids which is written for hearing aid consumers and Audiology Marketing in a Digital World which is written for Audiology Practice Owners. They are both available in Paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon. I also write for consumers on the website Hearing Aid Know, which is a website with the mission of demystifying hearing aids, their types and their technology. I have a great interest in commercial strategy as it applies to Healthcare in general and specifically to Hearing Healthcare. I also have a great interest in the psychology of sales and human interaction. I have been involved with social media for some time, both personally and professionally. I find the engagement and discourse on some social media channels fascinating. I instituted social media strategy for the company I worked for as an experiment. That experiment soon spread throughout the company and I am proud to say that the company is probably one of the most active in the industry. I would like to point out that all views, opinions and thoughts here are mine own. Unless of course they have been planted by the pod people, you just can’t take your eyes off the pod people. Those views do not necessarily reflect upon any views or opinions held by my employer, if I ever get another one. I think that our industry is in the middle of a time of huge change, I think that the change will be forced by both internal and external pressure. I think that private Independent Healthcare Practices will have to be smart and lithe of feet in order to meet these changes. I hope that some of my blatherings are of benefit to those Practices, Independent Hearing Healthcare Practices need to survive. I believe that if that occurs it will be of real benefit to Patients. I hope that I, and my writings will play a small part in their continued success.

6 Comments

  1. Good point Geoff!!
    I think it’s just another step into what the market is evolving. This one failed, service is key, yes. But time to time and I’m sure next generations would take this far syatem far better

  2. Yeah, Geoff, I wondered about all the gnashing of teeth and shirt rending when hiHealth was launched. To me it seemed to be a questionable proposition from the start. With thirty plus years in the business you find that new ideas are usually old ideas repackaged with a new name. (Mail order hearing aids, Hearing Planet, buying groups, etc.)

    Out of morbid curiosity we signed on as a provider (blasphemy!) to see how much demand hiHealth would generate in our rural area and how the process would work with real patients. Not much as it turns out. So far we have seen three people. One ordered a set of aids two months ago that we have not yet fitted to her molds. One only wanted a set of molds. And the last ended up order a set of high tech aids from us, which has more than covered the cost of the Intricon software and cables.

    We’re not losing any sleep over it.

    • Jim, I commend your attitude and your willingness to have a go. As you have said most new ideas are old ideas re-packaged, the way this one was deployed was probably going to doom it to failure. But as a learning exercise for the profession it has been excellent. The truth about price an service has been shown, low price won’t cut it unless service is there. It also should focus everyone on the concept of marketing service and outcomes as much as product.

  3. Pingback: Vertical Integration in The Hearing Aid Industry

  4. really enjoyed this geoff! well done

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