Tips for Optimizing Your Teleaudiology Techniques & Environment

Over the last year, businesses have faced the daunting task of trying to keep their doors open while remaining profitable during the pandemic. This has forced many to change their practices to accommodate customers safely in the new environment. A significant change in the hearing healthcare industry has of course been the utilization of remote and virtual appointments.

These types of appointments are more common than ever. In fact, the number of telehealth visits in the U.S. increased by 50 percent during the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. In the Hearing Review’s second Covid-19 Impact Survey last April, 51 percent of hearing care providers said they have used telehealth for follow-ups and counseling while 45 percent said they have used it for hearing aid adjustments and fine-tuning.

To clarify, audiology practices have three ways of providing this service to patients:

  1. Virtual appointments via phone or video (Facetime, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
  2. Remote programming and/or troubleshooting via a smartphone app
  3. Full-service teleaudiology (such as Your Tele Care)

 These are all great options but may not be suitable for every situation, every type of patient or appointment, or every practice. What’s important is that you figure out how to make these offerings a reality for your patients where appropriate.

Whether your practice has already implemented teleaudiology or is still considering it, here are some key points to consider as well as tips for enhancing patient care, virtually:

Wi-Fi:

If many of your patients live in remote areas with poor Wi-Fi or your practice itself has poor Wi-Fi, you could experience audio and video issues that are not ideal for video-based appointments. Having high-speed internet is critical and should be the first thing you consider before implementing any type of teleaudiology services.

Comfortability with technology:

Even if a patient isn’t tech-savvy, a virtual appointment could work if they have someone at home who can assist them such as a child, grandchild, or caregiver. Plan ahead and ask patients to have someone with them during their appointment (just like you’d ask them to bring a third party to an in-person appointment). On the other hand, don’t underestimate your patients—the pandemic has forced many to learn and embrace technology in ways they never have before, especially video chat.

Camera placement:

While you cannot control the patient’s camera placement, you can and should make sure the patient is able to clearly see you and anything you may need to demonstrate. Position your camera in a way that provides an up-close view of your head and shoulders and minimizes reflection (e.g., facing a wall instead of a window or mirror). Also, make sure any equipment you may need is within easy reach (tip: hands-free telephone access can maximize both audio and video-based communication).

Proper lighting

Conducting video-based appointments in a well-lit space will help to ensure patients aren’t straining to see you. According to American Telemedicine Association’s publication, Let there be Light: A Quick Guide to Telemedicine Lighting, which is a go-to resource for virtual care lighting and techniques, appropriate lighting is linked to greater patient satisfaction, which contributes to clinical engagement and reimbursement.

Environment and etiquette:

The ideal environment for any type of virtual appointment is a quiet, private space free of distractions, disruptions, and competing sounds (somewhere you won’t run the risk of people walking past your screen or a conversation or ringing telephone being picked up by your microphone). Remember: experience is still important. Remove any clutter from your desk and choose your backdrop wisely (a wall covered in photos, flyers, and/or artwork might seem nice but could also compete for a patient’s attention). When conducting audio-based appointments, know that pauses will simply be heard as silence, so let patients know when you are stopping to think or take notes. Lastly, if you’re going to be on video, be sure to look presentable and try to avoid clothing with loud colors and prints.

Test and confirm:

Before any type of virtual appointment, it’s crucial that you do a trial run (actually, multiple trial runs) to make sure you are comfortable and that your equipment is working properly. Enlist the help of your coworkers—do a few mock appointments and ask for their feedback. In addition, you should check your equipment regularly and confirm at the beginning of every appointment that the patient can see and hear you clearly.

With the demand for hearing healthcare on the rise, there’s never been a better time to think about ways your practice can grow and evolve to meet the needs of more patients, more efficiently.

If you’re still on the fence about adopting a multifaceted teleaudiology solution, let’s talk briefly about the benefits. Aside from reducing travel time and related stress for patients—many of whom have mobility issues—teleaudiology allows practices to expand their reach beyond the confines of their physical location to help more people (most importantly, those who may not have access to quality hearing healthcare otherwise). Teleaudiology has also been shown to reduce the cost of hearing care and increase efficiency through better management of patients, shared clinic staff, reduced travel times/expenses, and fewer cases of patient dissatisfaction.

So, do your research. Listen to what colleagues who have gone virtual have to say. And doggonit, talk to your Account Manager! 

About the Author

Diana Dobo joined Consult YHN in 2011 as an Account Manager before being named Divisional Vice President, West in 2014. Since May 2018, she has served as Vice President, Strategic Accounts. Prior to joining Consult, Diana was a Senior Sales Manager in healthcare IT with Acusis and served as an adjunct faculty member for several colleges facilitating business courses. She has over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business development and is passionate about helping her team and her customers achieve outstanding results.

Handling Price Inquiries – What FOPs & Providers Need to Know

On occasion, patients call asking about the price of hearing devices. They may ask for a price range or the price of a specific product. Nowadays, most patients have already done some extent of online research and are merely looking for you to confirm the information they have found.

From a customer service standpoint, of course, you want to answer the patient’s pricing questions over the phone. But here’s why you shouldn’t and how to handle it as a Front Office Professional (FOP) or Hearing Healthcare Provider.

 

Front Office Professionals

  1. If the patient hasn’t had his hearing tested, then you don’t know if he could benefit from amplification. The first thing you should do is find out if he’s had a hearing test and been told he could benefit from hearing devices.
  2. Regardless of the patient’s response, the device recommendation will still be based on hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget. So, without consulting with the provider, you don’t know what will be recommended as a solution. The best thing you can do for the patient is to schedule a consultation with the provider who is the hearing expert. Most important, communicate these reasons to the patient on your call. Don’t just say, “we don’t provide pricing over the phone.” Instead, provide the reasoning and emphasize how each patient requires individual testing and recommendations in order to provide the best solution based on hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget.
  3. Let the patient know that your practice works with a variety of manufacturers with a range of prices to fit their needs. If absolutely necessary, offer to have the provider contact the patient to further advise them on their options.

Hearing Health Providers

  1. Find out what’s important to patients and why they are inquiring about price. Are they asking about price because they have a preconceived notion about the cost of hearing devices? Are they getting second-hand information from a friend or loved one? Are they trying to sort through mailers, newspaper ads, and/or the internet to make sense of the price?
  2. Explain how the influx of information from the above sources can be confusing and how you can help them make sense of it all by being their trusted advisor. Let them know that although hearing devices can look alike, it doesn’t mean they all have the same functionality, and it’s important to understand how their ongoing hearing healthcare needs will be handled. Let them know why patients choose to come to you. 
  3. Invite the patient to visit your practice for a free consultation with you. Patients choose providers they trust. So be the provider they need.

Reach out!

Talk to your Account Manager today if you have any questions about how you and your staff can better handle price shoppers or cost objections.

You and your team may benefit from our Employee Development Program (EDP), which offers regional classes on a variety of topics, from increasing customer satisfaction to closing sales. We also provide weekly teletrainings which give practice owners the opportunity to openly discuss the challenges their personnel are facing and learn how to overcome them.

And don’t forget that there’s a wealth of information and free materials available to Consult members via Navigator, including scripts your staff can use as a guide for handling incoming calls, requesting patient referrals, asking for a Third Party, and more.

About the Author

Diana Dobo joined Consult YHN in 2011 as an Account Manager before being named Divisional Vice President, West in 2014. Since May 2018, she has served as Vice President, Strategic Accounts. Prior to joining Consult, Diana was a Senior Sales Manager in healthcare IT with Acusis and served as an adjunct faculty member for several colleges facilitating business courses. She has over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business development and is passionate about helping her team and her customers achieve outstanding results.

Tips for Filling Your Schedule with More New Patients

One of the most common questions I hear from practice owners is a crucial one:

“What can I do to bring new patients in the door?”

This fundamental question can be the difference between a practice that is thriving with year-over-year growth or one that is simply staying afloat. In the worst of cases, left unsolved, this question can lead to declines in revenue.

With an ever-changing landscape and a widening shift to managed care, practices want to know now more than ever how to specifically get more private pay patients in the door.

Here are the keys to success that I have utilized to help the practices that I work closely with:

1. One of the very first steps in this process is the need to determine the patient types that exist in your practice (i.e. Private Pay, Managed Care, Medicaid, and Workman’s Compensation). You will need to do a thorough analysis of your specific patient mix by tracking sales in your practice management system while simultaneously completing this same level of analysis in your financial management system. This will provide you with a detailed breakdown of your actual sales numbers and you can determine what your specific patient mix has been.

2. Once you have a good handle on how many patients you fit by type, you will need to determine your monthly revenue goal, current device sales by patient type, and current revenue by patient type. These numbers can help you build a forecast for non-private pay vs. private pay revenue based on historical trends. This will allow you to subtract out your non-private pay revenue from your monthly revenue goal in order to determine how many private pay patients you need to fit each month.

An example might help to solidify this concept: After completing the above review, you determine that your monthly revenue goal is $50,000 a month, your average sales price per private pay device is $2,000, and you normally fit 10 managed care patients per month with a fitting fee of $600 per patient. Your non-private pay revenue per month would be $6,000 in revenue from non-private pay patients that you can assume would come in regardless of other efforts to attract more patients. If we subtract this number from your overall revenue goal, you will see that you would need to bring in $44,000 in private pay revenue to hit your goal for the month. Now, if you divide this number by your average sales price per private pay device, you can see that you need to fit 22 private pay devices per month to hit your revenue goal.

3. Now that you know this answer, you will want to determine how many private pay appointments need to be on your schedule to achieve the 22 device sales for the month. This calculation is based on your specific practice’s numbers as each practice has different conversion, return, and cancellation rates. Consult YHN’s Plug & Play Calculator will do the math for you!

4. Once you know the magic number, you should block that many appointments on your schedule and focus on filling them. Now, this is where the answer to the main question lies: How do you fill your schedule? There are many different techniques that practices use, and no single strategy works best since every practice is different.

Some of the most common and beneficial ways to acquire new private pay patients are in the form of marketing. Direct mail, newspaper, and digital advertising are still the leading forms of traditional marketing that lead to patient acquisition. Other ways of attracting new patients are through physician outreach, community outreach, implementing a hearing wellness protocol, and most importantly, mining your own database for patients who may have older technology or originally tested but did not purchase a device. This is great for generating new leads without having to spend money on marketing as you already have the patient’s information and a relationship with them.

5. Once you have your plan in place, you’ll want to look at your schedule on a daily basis and aggressively attempt to fill any openings. One tactic that I normally advise a practice to employ is to meet with your team to customize and prioritize a plan that directs focus on calling individuals to keep your schedule filled. Contacting patients that are scheduled out in the future and bringing those appointments forward will help fill your current schedule vacancies and provide time for your team to contact other patients that may have previously canceled an appointment or been tested but not treated.

Your team can conduct an audit of the current schedule by looking at any non-revenue generating appointments, such as repairs and clean and checks, that are scheduled in the next week to check the age of their hearing devices and last hearing test date to see if they are due for an updated test or technology demonstration.

6. Last, but certainly not least, your team should be properly trained to handle customer calls. Being able to handle an incoming call, qualify these calls to schedule the correct appointment type, and calling current patients plays a vital role. If you and your team stay focused on filling your schedule with the correct amount of appointments needed to meet your revenue goal, I can assure you, growth will follow.

This is just a snippet of what you and your staff can do. If you want to implement these methods throughout your practice, our team is available to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Contact your AM or call us at 800-984-3272 if you do not have a Consult YHN representative.

About the Author

Diana Dobo was as an Account Manager for three years and Divisional Vice President for the West Division for four years before being named Consult YHN’s Vice President of Strategic Accounts. She has nearly 20 years of experience in sales, marketing and business development. Prior to joining Consult YHN, she was a Senior Sales Manager in the healthcare IT industry.