With the recent introduction of remote support by Phonak, that brings to three of the major hearing brands to offer telecare services. Although, there are rumours that the others will soon follow.
What will it mean for hearing care?
That is the interesting question, what will telecare mean for the hearing aid profession and hearing aid users? At present, it means that some lucky hearing aid users have access to remote care of their hearing aids from forward-looking professionals.
However, not all professionals see remote care as suiting them or their business model and it is not nearly as widespread an option as you may think. In fact, just recently I was involved in a conversation where a hearing healthcare professional confidently announced that his patients wouldn’t be interested in that type of thing.
I thought to myself you mean you aren’t! It is the age-old “my customers aren’t interested in technology” argument that was first rolled out with the introduction of Made For iPhone hearing aids. The proponents of the argument were wrong then and they are wrong now.
Consumers demand and the services change
Look where not listening to consumers got us
The hearing aid business is in the middle of one of the biggest changes in its history, all because consumers demanded it to be so. Well, in fairness, consumers and some vested interests. Over The Counter hearing aids will be introduced soon much to the chagrin of many in the business, and still, it seems that many have not learned a valuable lesson about consumer demands.
Anyway, back to the effect of remote support on the market. As I said, many professionals really don’t understand how remote care sessions fall within the business model. They are unsure if it is something that should be used as a matter of course or something that should be offered as an added extra.
What are the options
I myself have discussed several options with people and believe it or not am really none the wiser. I could offer it as a concierge service, whereby people pay a premium for the access. Alternatively, I could offer it as a standard service and make personal visits a concierge service.
Or, do I treat it simply as a typical service offering and include it full stop? No matter what I decide, I do believe that slowly over time many of the services we in the profession provide could be undertaken remotely pretty much as a matter of course.
Services as a subscription
I think that remote support will be one element that will hasten our move towards a service subscription model. A model that charges a weekly, monthly or yearly rates for services provided. I also think that the consumer will welcome that type of model, mainly because it makes sense to them.
That is the way buy mobile phones, increasingly, it is the way that they buy large consumer technology products. I think the model will make perfect sense to the consumer.
The mobile phone analogy works well for us I believe, consumers are used to paying for a mobile phone and service. They are also used to paying a reduced rate just for service. While the analogy isn’t exact, it’s close.
What other players are interested?
That really is the question, as services and products are delivered in a different manner, what other players could be interested in becoming involved. Is there a phone centre in India just awaiting the opportunity to supply fine tuning services for a fee?
At present, that will be impossible, because hearing aid brands have made it so. However, I think it will just take one consumer association to take a European case to change that. I mean the consumer has purchased the hearing aids and all of the features, who are the manufacturers to bar them from open access to those features.
It really goes back to the concept of who the customer is, up to now, most hearing aid brands have considered the hearing healthcare professional as the customer. In real terms, they aren’t and never have been. I think this concept will be tested, I also believe that most hearing aid brands are slowly coming to the realisation that they are in fact B2C , not B2B.
I always seem to be the guy saying “hey, what if”, I bring succour to myself with the thought that someone has to. What will be the future? Fucked if I know and I think about it a lot. We need to consider all the possibilities. Events never happen in isolation, there are always effects. I think telecare will be one of those flaps of a butterfly’s wings.