Modernizing Workflow In Hearing Health Practices
I had a really interesting conversation recently with one of my customers pertaining to the consultation process and its evolution. He pointed out that the consultation had in fact evolved on the premise that it was going to take place in the home of the Patient. It also was based on the fact that the Patient did not want to purchase.
At least one of these things has changed radically, although not all of the Patients I met needed the optimal negotiation position. So, if the consultation flow and indeed premise was designed for a different situation in a different time, why do we still follow it? I know that the consultation has been updated and we have integrated a lot of modern thought on the psychology of sales. However, in most practices the hearing health professional undertakes the consultation in its entirety, from qualification of the Patient through to the sale.
Put simply, why? Do we need to undertake the whole consultation ourselves? If we do split the consultation into different parts, undertaken by different people, will that increase the perception of the Patient experience? Qualification of the Patient, the initial questioning and medical questioning can be done on a tick box format. Can this be undertaken by a trained receptionist? The audiometric testing needs to be undertaken by trained and qualified personnel, the fitting needs to be undertaken by trained and qualified personnel. But does the re-habilitation and fine tuning?
The recent advent of Hearing Care Assistants in the UK has changed the ongoing care of Patients in that country. It is becoming an accepted position within Ireland, does this change the whole game? What does this new position do to the economics of a Practice? The following is the description of duties allowed by Hearing Care Assistants:
The course will equip you with the skills necessary for working in a modern hearing aid audiology practice – you will study Professional Practice, and become proficient in Clinical procedures of Otoscopy, Audiometry, impression taking and hearing aid technology. Upon graduation and, you will be eligible to register with the The British Society of Hearing Aid audiologists (BSHAA) as an associate, which will enable you to practice without direct supervision and, if you wish, to continue your studies to become a Hearing Aid Audiologist
So as you can see, the Hearing Care Assistant can undertake many duties in a Practice. With this in mind, what does it mean for the workflows, economics and indeed design of a Practice. It means the workflow can be split out, with two HCAs attending the front desk, one can be qualifying Patients before handing those Patients over to the Hearing Health Professional for audiometric testing, instrument demonstration and recommendation and purchase. The other HCA can be undertaking service calls and ongoing re-habilitation visits.
This allows a Practice to maximize through flow of Patients, it also has an effect on the perception of the Patient. I think that effect would be a good one, in essence their care and ongoing hearing health is being looked after by a team. Not just one person, but a team effort to ensure that they hear well. This type of model also changes the economics of delivery of ongoing care. HCAs do not get paid as much as qualified people, therefore any ongoing care provided by them is cheaper to the Practice. In theory this model will allow a Practice to reduce hearing instruments to a really cheap price, but allow the Practice to retain a strong margin.
This type of model with associated pricing will increase volume sales through a Practice. We have seen this in the UK and Ireland with one national player already. They have low price high volume sales, but because of ongoing cost of care, continual profitability of the model was difficult. Year one is fantastic, year two and three get better but by year four the Practice is sprinting in order to stand still and something gives. Either profitability or ongoing care and service. If ongoing care and service drops, it sounds the death knell for the Practice in the long term.
But, if you can offer the model with ongoing care and service, the model is a winner. Also, because of the reduced cost base of the Practice, decent instruments at reasonable prices can be offered. I also have some ideas about how this type of business model would change the physical deployment of a Practice, but that is for another post. What do you think?