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.

2020 Year-in-Review

As we embark on a new year, let’s take a moment to appreciate the past one—2020 was a wild ride!

Together, we succeeded. We led our members through the pandemic. We leaned on and learned from one another – navigating all roadblocks while preparing to thrive in 2021 and beyond! Join us in celebrating our best moments.

Your success is our success. Here’s to even more in 2021!

About the Author

Nicole Finkbiner joined Consult YHN as the Marketing Communications Specialist in 2018 with nearly a decade of communications experience. Over the course of her career, Nicole has created a wide array of different content for various mediums and outlets—news articles, press releases, arts features, product descriptions, small business websites, e-blasts, social media posts, promotional materials, and more. In her free time, the Philadelphia native enjoys soaking up the city’s culture and binge-watching TV shows.

Patient Recall: The Key to a Successful Comeback Plan

During the COVID-19 shutdowns this spring, many practices struggled with finding the right way to communicate with patients. Overwhelmingly, practices that followed a plan and stayed connected to their database and/or used a service like Your Patient Contact Center (YPCC) to make calls to patients realized two great benefits.

First, those practices reassured patients that they were still there for them and would continue to serve their hearing healthcare needs moving forward. As business returned to normal, those practices kept patients informed about the additional safety procedures they put in place as well as any changes to their hours and services. A remarkably large percentage of practices were quick to implement curbside service and offer remote care options to patients who couldn’t come into the office.

Second, but equally important, it was their existing customers who felt most comfortable coming back into their clinics and purchasing new devices. Whether it was a result of pent up demand or increased family interaction placing a greater value on hearing healthcare in general, it was these patients and their purchases that led to the recovery of many practices.

Of course, this didn’t just happen overnight—it was the practices that put a concerted effort into patient recall that saw the quickest recovery to their business. These practices strengthened their patient relationships and stayed top-of-mind because they took the time to pick up the phone and call their patients. They checked to see if their patient’s existing devices were working optimally or upgraded them to newer technology.

In addition to being a smart business strategy, patient recall is and always has been founded in good healthcare. You need to remain in contact with patients—before, during, and after each sale—to maintain a loyal database. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to invest in patient recall. Not only is new customer acquisition expensive, but the industry is becoming more competitive every year. Leveraging your relationships with existing patients is simply the most cost-effective way to build brand loyalty, drive awareness, and increase patient referrals.

Finally, let’s consider another challenge practices face in maintaining patient relationships: rechargeability. For many years, practices have relied on free or low-cost batteries to keep their patients coming back. While certainly a great innovation, rechargeable hearing aids have significantly reduced the number of office visits patients need to make. That’s why practices need to put greater emphasis on outbound calls to engage their database. At Consult YHN, our most successful Associates make patient outreach a priority and are rewarded because of it.

When it comes down to it, you have two choices: hire an additional staff member to handle your outbound dialing or outsource it to a service like YPCC. The good news is that we can help you with either decision. We hear a lot of practice owners express initial concern about the cost of patient recall. What many don’t realize is that it’s actually an incredible bargain when you consider the end result: a more loyal patient database, increased sales, and most importantly, better patient care.

Click here to learn more about Your Patient Contact Center or talk to your Account Manager today to get started!

About the Author

Bill Connerton is the National Vice President of Sales at Consult YHN. Bill has been with the company since 2011 and has worked extensively with some of the largest practices in the country. He has developed and lead a team of Account Managers that drive behavior change in practices, including the development of business owners who partner with Consult YHN.

Five Simple Ways to Create a Five-Star Patient Experience

Think about the last time you received top-notch customer service. Did your doctor call to check up on you the day after a procedure? Did a restaurant give you extra sauces and napkins with your delivery? Did your accountant send a handwritten note on your birthday?

Now think about the last time you received terrible customer service. How many friends and family members did you tell? Did you rant about it on Facebook? Did you write a scathing Yelp review?

The truth is that the customer experiences we remember are the ones that were either fantastic or truly awful. And unfortunately, it’s usually the latter that gets the most attention:

Customers who have a bad experience are 2-3 times more likely to write a negative review than happy customers are to write a positive review.

Needless to say, bad reviews are bad for business:

80% of people will choose to go elsewhere if they read bad reviews about your business online.

A positive customer experience is key to building loyalty. As the saying goes, “a happy customer is a loyal customer.” And you can’t underestimate the value of loyalty:

Loyal customers are 5 times more likely to purchase again and 4 times more likely to refer a friend.

During my years working in a private practice in Florida, I oversaw all our community outreach events (health fairs, hearing seminars, Lunch & Learns, etc.). Anyone who knows me would tell you, I’m perfectly suited for this type of work. When I wasn’t in the office, I was out in the community, talking to people, learning about their hearing history, and conveying to them how important hearing is to their relationships, livelihood, and overall health.

Once you scheduled an appointment with me, you were my patient. I sent my patients appointment reminders, I called them the day before their appointment to confirm, and on the day of, I made sure to greet him/her upon arrival (“George! Welcome! It’s so nice to see you again!”). This didn’t happen overnight—it took time to build these relationships and good habits. I was fortunate to have a boss who pushed me to do more, be better, and try harder. Sometimes it was difficult, but the outcome was worth it.

I realize the Coronavirus has complicated what good customer service looks like. Healthcare providers have had to quickly adopt new safety and sanitation protocols to protect staff and patients while continuing to provide the same high level of care.

But the pandemic has also made exceptional customer service all the more important. Even something as small as extra bread with my takeout pasta seems to mean so much more. Years from now, it’s the people and businesses that took the best care of us during this challenging time that we’re going to remember most and be loyal to.

Below are sure-fire ways to increase patient satisfaction and build greater brand loyalty—not just today, but in the months and years to come.

1. Be accessible.

Today’s consumers expect and demand greater convenience in every aspect of their lives, including their healthcare. For younger and more active patients, offering services like online scheduling, automated appointment reminders (via email and text message), and live chat can be differentiators for your practice. Keep in mind that some of your patients are also more tech-savvy today than they were just a few months ago. With the pandemic forcing older Americans to remain largely confined to their homes, many have relied on video chat and other apps to shop, work, connect with loved ones, and even meet with doctors. The best thing you can do for your patients right now is to make yourself available to help them, especially the most vulnerable. Consider implementing curbside and teleaudiology services if you haven’t already.

2. Stay connected.

Now more than ever, your patients want and need to hear from you. So much that we recommend overcommunicating with them. Consistent outreach and follow-up with your database is crucial to increasing patient satisfaction and driving sales. Continue to update your digital properties (website, social media, Google My Business, Healthy Hearing profiles, etc.) to reflect any changes to your hours and services as well as the safety precautions your office is implementing. This should also be included in all of your marketing collateral. Use social media to stay top-of-mind with patients and make calling your database a priority. How often should you contact patients to ensure they purchase their next set of hearing aids from you? Click here to find out!

3. Make a good first and second impression.

Your website is often your patients’ first impression of your business. If it’s cluttered, outdated, slow, and/or difficult to navigate, visitors will have a negative perception of your practice (follow these ten tips to take your site from good to great). Just like your website, your office space should be a positive reflection of your brand and the quality of care you provide. Old or unsightly furnishings can suggest a lack of pride and attention to detail while a mini-fridge filled with bottled waters says, “We care about your comfort.” A fresh coat of paint and a fresh pot of coffee (or Keurig) can go a long way in creating a more inviting atmosphere where patients feel welcomed. Once it’s safe to have communal items in your waiting area again, be sure to have fresh new educational and marketing materials (flyers, posters, brochures, etc.) for visitors. Aside from offering valuable information that can help patients make the decision to invest in their hearing, they lend to your credibility as an “expert.” Finally, toss out all those old magazines—no one wants to read about the Royal Wedding anymore (well, except me, but that’s a topic for a much different blog).

4. Don’t keep them waiting!

How do you feel when you arrive to an appointment on time but the doctor doesn’t see you for 20 minutes or longer? Honor your patients’ time with respect. If you’re overbooked and struggling to manage your time, have your Front Office Professional (FOP) do a double knock on the door 5-15 minutes before your next appointment or a single knock when the patient has arrived. This can help keep you focused. Need more time with a patient or wrapping up a sale? Take a quick second and let your FOP know so they can inform your next patient. This is where having a fresh cup of joe and ample reading materials will come in handy.

5. Ask for reviews and referrals.

I’ve already touched on the importance of positive word of mouth but allow me to really drive the point home: nearly 90% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust their best friends’ recommendations and people are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. If you’ve done everything right and created a positive experience for your patients, then this part should be easy. A satisfied patient is already more likely to recommend your practice to a friend or family member. But why wait for that to happen when all you need to do is ask? There are several ways to ask for patient referrals and, I promise, none are as awkward as you think. In addition, you should be sending automated online review requests through your practice management software (email and/or text message) after each appointment. It helps to plant the seed while the patient is in front of you. Let them know they’ll be receiving a message then explain how valuable their feedback is and that you’d really appreciate it if they could take a few minutes to share their opinion.

Change is hard. I’m the first to admit this. But we all understand the value of good customer service. If you’re following the above recommendations, keep it up. If not, take it one day at a time and gradually make the changes needed to ensure that every person who walks through your front door has the best experience. As my mom always says, “it’s the little things that often make the biggest difference.”

Consult YHN can help.
Talk to your Account Manager or contact us today!

About the Author

Julie Gesuale joined Consult YHN in 2010 and currently serves as an Assistant Account Manager in the company’s Hospital and University Division. Her diverse professional background includes customer service, marketing, and project management. When not working, Julie enjoys spending time with her wife of 15 years and her two rescue dogs, Sheldon and Leonard. She’s also been singing in church and community choirs for over 25 years.

Seven Reasons to Call Your Patients

Telemarketing can be an unsettling word for some. It evokes the days of yesteryear when family dinners were interrupted by phone calls and last names were mispronounced beyond recognition.

Forget what you thought you knew about telemarketing. In fact, forget the word ‘telemarketing’ entirely. At Consult YHN, we’ve turned outbound dialing into a service essential to the success of your hearing healthcare practice – Your Patient Contact Center (YPCC).

Through YPCC, our Associates have access to a highly-trained, professionally-managed workforce committed to patient communications and the success of the practice. YPCC’s patient contact specialists act as an extension of your practice, devoted to expanding your reach, securing appointments, and driving new and existing patients through your door.

Retaining current patients while effectively acquiring new ones should be an ongoing priority for every practice. Considering that 45 percent of patients will purchase their next set of hearing aids from a different practice – reinforces the importance of consistent patient outreach and follow-up.

Calling patients, whether it’s your staff or through our YPCC call center, is a beneficial process to implement in your practice for the following reasons:

1. Revenue-driving activity

On average, YPCC books 0.5 appointments per hour, and practices that use their service realize a net gain of 8-10 units per 40 hours of calling. At their competitive rates, your practice could pay less than $100 to book a qualified patient on your schedule. Through our Consult Database Program, 75% of appointments booked are through the YPCC efforts – with the average program yielding $11,400 in total revenue.

2. Keep consistent touchpoints with your patients

YPCC has developed carefully crafted scripts for each segment of your database. This ensures that the patient contact specialists are speaking directly to each patients’ individual hearing health journey.

3. Alignment with marketing activities

Sending just a letter or postcard to your database doesn’t cut it anymore. Making phone calls behind each of your marketing activities – and with consistent messaging – will better convert your warm leads into appointments. Multiple touchpoints help keep your brand top of mind or maintain “stickiness” in the minds of your patients. Additionally, a follow-up call behind a database mailer removes the work by the patient to act on a marketing call-to-action.

4. Outbound and inbound options

In addition to making outbound dials, YPCC also offers inbound options to help with call overflow or after-hours and weekend calls. This ensures your practice makes the most of every call and reinforces your commitment to excellent customer service.

5. Database cleanup

The health of your database will have a significant impact on patient retention. If you haven’t recently scrubbed your database for patients who have moved or passed away, then any other outreach to those patients is precious marketing dollars wasted.

6. Seamless patient experience

With full access to your practice management software, YPCC’s patient contact specialists schedule appointments on the spot.

7. Time-saving

Employing someone else to call patients on behalf of your practice puts more time back on your schedule so that you can focus on what you do best: helping more people hear well again!

The truth is patient contact centers have become a staple in the healthcare industry. Whether you are a small private practice or part of a hospital network, utilizing a contact center is a cost-effective way to retain patients and fill your schedule with appointments.

Click here to learn more about Your Patient Contact Center or talk to your Account Manager today to get started!

About the Author

Julia Shreckengast joined Consult YHN in 2015 and serves as Marketing Account Executive, providing support to Associates by managing creative projects and developing/executing marketing plans. Prior to joining Consult YHN, she helped promote the city of New Orleans as a member of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. Julia graduated Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Tulane University.