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Why The Power Is Now In The Hands Off The Patient/Consumer
Recent changes online and indeed the global uptake of the disruptive technologies that have arisen have changed our world dramatically. The introduction of the varied forms and platforms for social networking has changed immeasurably the power of the consumer.
This has been seen across every industry including medical related services. We have Patients grading their Doctors at present. People are openly discussing the services and products they have purchased and their satisfaction levels.
They are currently doing so about hearing instruments on internet forums internationally. Other services and products are consistently discussed for good and bad on Facebook, Twitter etc. Whilst I have not seen a Hearing Practice rated, I have not really searched for it, if one does not exist now, it will soon enough. It is with these ongoing changes in mind that I believe a properly thought out Patient Retention strategy is formed. The power of the consumer has changed, that old saying that an unhappy customer tell up to sixteen people does not hold sway any longer.
They May Tell The Whole Online World!
So we are faced with a whole new set of challenges in our business life, but I think there is a great deal of opportunities as well. These new technologies present new ways to advertise, cheaper ways to advertise. They also fit with the idea of your Patient being a marketing channel. This has never been truer than it is right now, you need to think about these elements clearly and adapt your practice. Because if you do not, you will not have a Practice in the years to come.
Most of all, you need to turn your Patient into an advocate for your business.
It’s worse than you think, Geoff. In addition to the vastly increased referral ( or dissing) power of the individual, technology is also increasing the enabling ability of the consumer. How long do you think it will be before consumers are able to fit themselves with hearing aids, online? This disintermediation process has already begun with the so-called online hearing tests and the remote distribution of instruments. It is only a matter of time until the online inaccuracies get corrected, perhaps with manufacturers bypassing brick and mortar offices and fitting hearing aids by remote diagnostic link. I come from the professional audio-video world, where we began doing remote monitoring and status reporting of audio and video systems years ago. How long do you think it will take hearing aid manufacturers to do this?
In essence you are correct Steve, we have already seen the introduction of online testing and direct to consumer Hearing Instruments, albeit disguised as Personal Listening Devices. However, I do not think most manufacturers would like to see that model proliferagate. Some are definitely buying in and indeed if it moves forward as a model other manufacturers may have to respond or die.
I think that most manufacturers have quite a lot invested in the current model of Hearing Instruments provision, I know that most are not happy with the model in its entirety, but I think they are invested in it for the long run.
A Monkey could fit a Hearing Instrument, but it takes real technical know how and personal interaction to fit a Hearing Instrument well to suit a loss and deliver real efficacy acrooss all living situations. That is what is key, delivering efficacy across all situations, this is not a one fits all situation.
I could have had two Patients with exactly the same hearing loss who ended up with completely different amplification settings. This was a constant when I practiced. My Patients to a one also need time and effort invested in them to succeed with their instruments. In some cases a lot of time and effort, the direct to consumer model does not take any recognition of this fact.
Also to counter my any monkey point earlier, it definitely takes more inteligent and experienced animals to undertake a proper audiological work up, bone conduction results are key to efficacious fit as are the application of proper audiological masking principle. No online test will deliver this for quite some time.
I do see far out in the future the possibility that our industry may go the way of yours, however, I still think that we as businessmen can adapt and change our practice to actually leverage that change to continue in business. Thanks for your input Steve, it is interesting to see the changes in other industries and how they might mirror our own.