Service offerings driving Practice differentiation
The world of audiology is changing, technological and treatment advances combined with competitive changes are moving rapidly. In essence these are changes that we can neither change nor control. It all leads to increased pressure, particularly on independent hearing healthcare practices. if indeed independent hearing healthcare practices are to survive, they need to consider strategies for real differentiation. They also need to consider changes to their business model.
Part of those changes or differentiation must involve service offering differentiation. You need to consider what service offerings that you can supply that will differentiate you from others. But as part of this thinking you also need to consider how to offer them as part of a changed business model. Your time is money and your business needs to survive, hence you need to consider how much to charge for such services.
One such service that is increasingly in vogue, is tinnitus therapy. Tinnitus therapy is a comprehensive service offering, up to now it has been a very specialist offering. The introduction of the Widex Zen Therapy Protocols has made the offering of tinnitus therapy services an easier option for Practices. I have heard the protocols described as tinnitus therapy in a box. In essence WZT is a set of multi disciplinary tools that can be used in tinnitus therapy. One of these tools is of course Widex Zen tones. The key though is that it is just one of the tools.
WZT is a combination of elements of TRT, CBT, counseling and sound therapy. That sound therapy may well be based purely on amplification, but it will often involve Widex Zen tones. There is now a plethora of evidence for the efficacy of Zen and its impact in tinnitus therapy. Widex in essence has built a service offering around Zen and brought it to market. Many independent hearing healthcare practices and hearing healthcare professionals are wary of tinnitus therapy. Unsure whether they have the skills or indeed the time to offer such services as an offering.
If you in fact offer rehabilitation as part of your hearing aid sales you are probably more skilled than you think. The skills that you bring to rehabilitation are similar to the skills needed for tinnitus therapy. The rest is acquired knowledge. The key to the ability to offer tinnitus therapy is education. That education will give you the confidence to offer the service to prospective customers. The offering of tinnitus therapy has many advantages commercially. It will bring new people to your practice, it will consolidate your authority. It will broaden your service offering and differentiate you, but it is not something you can do lightly.
What do you need to do to move forward with this type of service offering? You need to look at several things;
Education levels: You and your staff need the training to offer the service.
Referral network: Tinnitus therapy needs to be a multi disciplinary approach. You can not help every Patient with tinnitus. You need to know when to refer and who to refer to. Before you offer the service, you need to put that referral network in place.
Therapy Protocol: You should outline what your therapy protocol will be. What the Patient journey will look like and how it will work. You must also understand that that protocol is not rigid, differing Patients need different therapy schedules, differing treatment plans.
Offering strategy: You need to consider how this offering will be deployed. How it will be advertised, how it will fit into your Practice, who will be involved in the service, what the work flow will look like and most importantly, how will you charge?
There is a lot to consider if you wish to move forward with the strategy. Charging is one thing that needs to be deeply considered. What are you going to charge for the initial assessment and for follow up visits? If the therapy plan involves sound therapy through amplification and or Zen. How will you charge for that? Will you un-bundle pricing or will you offer combined pricing?
I have talked to many people in relation to pricing on tinnitus therapy sessions. They tend to just pick a price, a charge that is based on what sounds right or what they think their Patients will pay. You need to go deeper than that when setting a price. In order to set a price on your time you need to calculate what an hour of your time truly costs. In order to do that you need to calculate costs of overheads per practitioner per hour. You then need to add a profit margin to that cost in order that your business is profitable. Because that is why we are here, to run profitable businesses. As idealistic as you are, in order to help people suffering from auditory problems you need to be profitable.
Service offering differentiation will help you thrive into the future, but only if you deploy it properly.
un-bundling tinnitus from our “usual” private practice is a complex issue for the practitioner and the patient. To garner true value and benefit of the therapeutic intervention, both parties must be realisitic in outcome expectation, the duration of the intervention and cost this appropriately and proportionately. I agree that tinnitus support could easily fall into the remit of appropriately trained, and experienced, audiologists with counselling and technology skillsets, particularly given the rarity of hearing therapists, (especially in the UK) and the incidence of distressing tinnitus within our patient cohort
First off Anna, thank you for commenting. It is hard to get interaction on a blog. I couldn’t agree with your points more. I tried to answer some of them in the post and draw attention to the complexities. We all or mostly all have the Patients care and hearing healthcare in mind in this job. Treating their loss an helping overcome their lifestyle issues is particularly satisfying. Assisting Patients with Tinnitus is as if not more satisfying. But we all have to eat, therefore we all have to earn money. We trade our time an expertise for filthy lucre!
The treatment of tinnitus can be a complex issue, not in every case but certainly in some cases. You can set a protocol, a treatment plan, but that can not be rigid. Each individual case will be personal, perhaps needing different elements and differing amounts of sessions. So putting a price on tinnitus therapy is difficult.
But putting a price on an hour of your time is not, a simple calculation of overheads by dispenser by hours will give you your costs. You then add a reasonable profit margin and voila, ongoing session cost.
The initial assessment needs to factor in the work ups that are undertaken though so the cost may well be more. I think once you have done this calculation you can produce a schedule of costs that can be provided to prospective Patients. It is up to them then to decide to precede. What you do with cost of instrumentation then is a separate matter. What do you think you would do?
Hi Geoffrey, yes I think youre right about hourly pricing, and thats the way i have offered tinnitus counselling support previously. in the past the cost of bedside environmental sound maskers, and bte/ite maskers have been dispensed seperately, (as the companies i have worked for are reluctant to get into “accessories” upselling, [which i think is a missed opportunity], however this could be resolved through Widex Zen/Siemens products for example). I’m also therefore wondering if it could be practical/attractive/possible to offer instrumentation and two/three/four habillitation+counselling sessions as a package, which would prehaps offer three options: initial assessment, counselling and kit, counselling. (I’m assuming most people are using a CBTbased brief therapuetic model?)
I agree, if you are to move forward a re-think of how service and product is offered is needed. I am not sure about the wider model that’s used. The Widex Zen Therapy model is a mixture of CBT, elements of TRT, counselling and sound stimulation via amplification and or Zen.
I also think you are right in relation to the breakdown of the service offering. Initial assessment costed at one price, ongoing therapy sessions at another. Kit if needed introduced when needed. The difficulty is how you do it and how you cost it. If you think therapy sessions are going to be ongoing perhaps you charge for the kit as a simple product. Then continue to charge for therapy separately. If the kit is going to be the answer and long term therapy is not an issue, do you then charge for the kit as we always have? All in all it brings up some interesting questions.