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.

Are You Engaged…To Your Business?

Did you know that seven of the ten most popular days to get engaged all fall in December? Perhaps not surprising given the pandemic’s impact on practically everything in our lives, the traditional engagement season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) looked a little different last year. In fact, Valentine’s Day dethroned Christmas as the most popular day to pop the question in 2020 (most likely because it took place pre-COVID).

So, what does this mean to your business? Did you get engaged there as well? Do you have plans or are you alone? Are you feeling stressed or uncommitted? For the unattached or unengaged, the future can seem lonely. That’s why below, we outline the steps you can take to get engaged, plan the perfect spring wedding, then ultimately marry your plan for success!

Step 1: Meet someone.

Are you lonely? Can you meaningfully discuss your profit and loss statement (P&L) with your employee(s)? Office “romances” don’t work – find someone outside of your practice. A trusted business advisor like your Consult Account Manager brings perspective from the industry, shares what similar practices are doing right (and wrong), and minimizes the trial-and-error method of running a business. This was particularly true during the COVID crisis. Many of our members have reported that the sense of belonging and knowing someone cared—about them, their staff, and their business—were some of the most appreciated services of 2020. Talking to yourself in the mirror, brainstorming ideas, and trying to convince yourself everything was going to be “ok” probably did little to actually relieve any of the loneliness or confusion you may have been feeling. Fortunately, you don’t need to be alone.

Step 2: Pick out your ring.

A clear sign that you’re getting engaged soon is the conversation about what the ring will look like – the shape, the style, the size, and, of course, the price tag? Have you picked out your business’ “ring” yet? Think about the following:
  • Will you sell more private hearing aids or participate in more third-party administrator plans?
  • Are you expanding your business or selling it?
  • Do you have enough space?
  • Are you fully staffed?
  • Do you have the right employees in the right positions?
  • Do you want to be a low-cost/low-value or high-cost/high-value provider or emphasize diagnostic care?
  • Do you have a revenue goal for 2021, 2022, 2023, and beyond?
  • If someone came in and offered to buy your practice tomorrow, do you have a price in mind?
Asking yourself these questions will help you define the kind of business you have, the kind you want to run, and what you want its future to look like.

Step 3: Make a plan.

Did you look at your calendar on February 13th and realize you didn’t have plans for Valentine’s Day? Do you operate your business each day without plans for the next day? Despite the many industry changes, too many practice owners fail to adjust accordingly. For example:
  • Have you seen your marketing become less effective? Make plans to adjust your marketing budget and strategy to focus on more effective messaging and mediums.
  • Tired of shifting piles of paper charts off your desk? Make plans to convert to a practice management system (PMS).
Don’t just sit in your office hoping tomorrow will look different—decide to actually do something today! Define a goal then list out the steps required to make it a reality. Resolve that the stress of doing nothing can only be ameliorated by acting. Why sit idle watching other businesses marry their plans for success? Set a date and start planning!

Step 4: Commit.

An engagement is a commitment, so treat it accordingly. Define your business lifecycle. Make plans to attain any goals you set. Work with someone outside the business but commit to the people in your business as well. Are they being developed? Are they reaching their goals? Review your business regularly—you should study your financials monthly, not just at tax time. Spend time understanding the relationship with your business and make it work. Successful marriages don’t just happen—they take a continuous, concerted effort.

Don’t wait for the next engagement season—
get engaged today!

About the Author

Scott Berger joined Consult YHN in 2010 and currently serves as our Regional Sales Manager - Inside Sales/Hospital. Previously, he spent nine years leading our Sales Analytics department. Scott holds an MBA in finance from Hofstra University and has several years of experience working in operations, analytics, and supply chain in the medical device industry. He is passionate about working directly with customers in an entrepreneurial setting.

Top 7 Marketing Trends of 2021 – Our Industry Partners Weigh In

We can’t predict the future; however, we can rely on experience, expertise and, leaders in the industry to help guide us with our biggest questions about marketing in 2021.

The pandemic has impacted many components of our lives, including how we stay connected and communicate. Muffled sounds from masks, isolation, and Zoom calls have compelled individuals with hearing loss to be more receptive to seeking or improving treatment. This provides a unique opportunity for hearing healthcare professionals to build greater trust with current and new patients, requiring a plan for consistent communication and marketing.

 As you plan and execute your marketing strategy, we turned to our valued partners for their expertise and insights on the top trends to keep an eye on in 2021.

Trend #1: Ensure your website is mobile-responsive

Mandy Mroz, Au.D. | President | Healthy Hearing

If you haven’t done so already, 2021 is the year to make your practice website as functional and impressive on mobile as it is on desktop. According to Google, 94 percent of people with smartphones search for local information (“hearing clinics near me”) on their phones.

You can test the mobile experience of your practice’s website in three easy steps:

  1. Search for your practice using different web browsers (e.g., Safari, Chrome) on your smartphone. Is your main website one of the top results? If not, there may be an issue with your mobile site.
  2. Using your smartphone, view your website in different browsers. Is your phone number easy to find and clickable for consumers ready to call?
  3. From your desktop computer, visit this website for a quick, objective test of your mobile site performance.

If you’re concerned about your mobile website, contact your web developer right away. Google will start ranking sites based on mobile performance in March 2021. Review your other web assets too, like your Healthy Hearing profile. We’ve been prioritizing mobile for years, but we’re always open to feedback on your experience.

Trend #2: Boost your credibility to rank higher on Google

Kevin St. Clergy | MedPB Partner, Chief Business Development Officer | MedPB

Medical marketing has become much stricter because of the pandemic. Some older marketing practices are now even getting banned. In addition to a push towards greater transparency in marketing, Google and other major marketing platforms are looking for cues that you are a reliable source of medical information. Some of the trust factors they look for are very technical and should be baked into the structure of your website. Others come from social media, online reviews, and other external factors. What a lot of business owners don’t realize, is that there were significant changes last year and more coming in 2021. These changes ultimately affect your cost per lead and the number and quality of your new patient leads. They also open the door for the competition to steal your patients.

Trend #3: Prioritize database marketing

Tom Flage | Sales and Marketing Manager | Blueprint Solutions

Did you know that 47 percent of patients will purchase their next set of hearing aids from a different clinic? Maintaining communication with your patients is essential to avoid becoming part of this statistic. Effectively marketing to your existing patients will help you consistently grow your business, drive revenue, and establish a presence in your local community. One of the most cost-effective ways of doing this is through email marketing. While it may not be as flashy as social media or TV ads, it’s significantly less expensive and allows for a more careful, targeted approach in delivering the right message to the right patients at the right time.

Automating email marketing through your office management system can turn a time-consuming process of collecting emails, drafting content, and identifying the right patients into just a few clicks. Some office management systems will allow for sending custom marketing emails automatically to help you capture missed opportunities. Track your email campaign’s read/open rate via reporting in your OMS to help you identify the most effective messaging.

Trend #4: Enhance your clinic’s online reputation

Meghan Pendley | Business Development Director | Audiology Design

Online reviews are the new word of mouth. In fact, more than 80 percent of consumers read reviews before visiting a business or using a service, and 48 percent only pay attention to reviews left in the past two weeks. In today’s culture, positive online reviews equal trust. Patients look to them as a snapshot view of your practice.

Adding patient reviews to your Google Business listing (aka. Google My Business profile) can also help with your overall search ranking on Google. The more robust your online presence, the easier it is for people to find you! It’s also important to give patients multiple platforms on which to leave their feedback, especially Google, Facebook, and Healthy Hearing. This will ensure you cover the sites that provide an easily accessible log-in or simply one they prefer. Utilizing a review generation service that helps your practice obtain more patient reviews and also automates with your Practice Management Software (PMS) should also be a key component of your digital marketing strategy in 2021.

Trend #5: Find creative ways to engage new and existing patients

Brian Urban, Au.D. | President | CounselEAR

As the last 12 months have clearly shown, maintaining a consistent connection with your current patients and finding creative ways to engage with new ones is not only beneficial but essential. In times when new patients may be reluctant to seek care and existing patients may neglect routine follow-ups, we need to be creative, flexible, and consistent in our approaches to engagement. For me, this brings two main areas to mind:

Telehealth: Telehealth is a fantastic tool for connecting with new and existing patients, establishing/maintaining rapport, and ensuring that they’re receiving high-quality care. For new patients that simply have questions and would like to speak face-to-face before an in-person visit, telehealth consultations can help ensure they move forward with an evaluation when they’re comfortable. For existing patients, routine follow-ups can often be managed via telehealth, thereby reducing exposure and improving convenience for them as well as your team.

Email Marketing Automation: Utilizing an email marketing automation system enables you to take a “set and forget” approach to reaching out to patients based on specific criteria. For example, patient birthdays, upgrade notices, and more. 

Emails are automatically sent to patients based on your specific criteria and contain your preferred images/text. They can also contain a link to your online scheduling tool. In this way, you’re able to reach out to patients at the right time with the right message and provide them with a seamless experience. As we work our way through the COVID world into what’s hopefully a post-COVID world very soon, telehealth and marketing automation can help you conveniently deliver a new and engaging level of care to current and prospective patients.

Trend #6: Embrace technology to stay connected to patients

Bryce Colacurcio | Chief Strategy Officer | ROC Advertising

For many of us, the list of things we thought were vital in life is much shorter today than it was pre-pandemic. At the very top of that list is our relationships with our friends and family. Whether it’s hearing the conversation going on around us, the laughter in the other room, or the grandkids over a FaceTime call, people want (and need!) to connect with loved ones, now more than ever. The ability to hear in loud or noisy environments affects one’s health, well-being, and family memories, and we should be mindful of this. As business owners continue to navigate these challenging times, reducing expenses has become a necessity. That means prioritizing how marketing dollars are spent is just as essential. By focusing marketing efforts on a tried-and-true approach that brings a strong response, we can reach those who feel isolated and bring them to the conversation, both virtually and in-person.

The meteoric rise in telehealth and video chat/conferencing platforms like FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype shows that your patients are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and adopting digital technology. You need to meet them where they are, which means embracing tools like online scheduling, text message appointment reminders, and chatbots. And, creating short, engaging videos to post on your website and social media. Lastly, don’t shy away from explaining the benefits and advanced features of today’s high-end hearing aids to older patients—while they may not have understood Bluetooth before, there’s a good chance they do now.

Trend #7: Differentiate your practice in a competitive market

Robert M. Traynor, Ed.D., MBA | Clinical & Forensic Audiologist | Robert Traynor Audiology

If you’ve never heard of recreational audiology, it’s been defined by the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) as “the practice of hearing conservation and consumer education regarding products and services used to enhance and preserve hearing occupations and environments that may not be regulated by governmental agencies.”

Although virtually ignored by most practitioners, there are some, including Garry G. Gordon, owner of EAR, Inc., who concur that the market for hearing protection in industrial and recreational markets such as, manufacturing, aviation, musicians, law enforcement, auto racing, motorcycles, hunting and shooting sports, is more than 60 million individuals.

Approximately, 47 percent of consumers seeking hearing protection admit to a noticeable hearing loss. While some of these patients will eventually present themselves for hearing care on their own, specializing in industrial and recreational hearing impairment could have incredibly positive results that could revitalize even the most struggling practice. This might be just the method to differentiate a practice in competitive markets, where competitors are all marketing to the same population.

Altogether, some great advice and to summarize: continue to use the most cost-effective channels to stay connected to patients—email, snail mail, phone calls, and social media. Develop and follow a marketing plan, monitor it regularly, track results and adjust it as needed. Boost your search engine ranking by maintaining a strong online presence and reputation. Continue to emphasize your safety precautions in all of your communications. Ensure you’re using the features of your PMS that simplify and support your marketing efforts. Take advantage of our team of marketing experts at Consult and our partners.

Last but not least, remember the profound impact you have on the lives of your patients – and ensure your passion comes through in your marketing.

 

What 2021 trend are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below! I’ll get the ball rolling: sweatpants remaining acceptable work attire.

Learn how Consult Marketing can help you drive more leads and sales 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.

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.