We’ve all read this a hundred times in the last few weeks. These are very uncertain times. As care providers, your inability to deliver needed hearing services must be troubling, especially when some of the most vulnerable to this virus are the very people who need your help.
While it is possible to provide ongoing care to current customers using remote counseling and fitting technology, engaging new patients is a definite challenge. You must worry about how to keep your business afloat when it is unclear how long you will need to remain closed.
Many of you are spending this free time preparing for how best to reopen for business. It is safe to assume that when you do, it won’t be business as usual.
We’ve heard from several creative hearing clinic owners who are using this time to “think outside of the booth.” They are pondering ways to continue to offer their services even when the clinic doors are shut. We want to share what we hear if it is useful to you as well.
Curbside Hearing Testing and Teleaudiology
This is a creative way to continue to offer audiometry testing services while remaining physically distant. We have customers who invite their patients to visit the clinic but stay in their cars. Once parked, with the windows rolled down, and the engine turned off, the clinician — dressed in personal protective equipment including a face mask and gloves — “visits” the patient at their vehicle. Through the open window, the clinician hands them a disinfected workplace audiometer. If the patient is comfortable self-administering the automated test, the clinician can wait for them to complete the test from a safe distance away. If the patient needs more help, the clinician can administer a manual test. In these cases, the clinician stands as far away as the transducer cable will allow.
Once the test is complete, the clinician takes the system back into the clinic while the patient remains in the car. The iPad audiometric testing equipment and transducers are disinfected (read here for more instructions), and then the clinician reviews the test results. They then call the patient on their mobile device with instructions for the next steps, depending on what type of follow-up is needed.
Online Hearing Testing
Many clinicians may discount this option since most online tests aren’t accurate and can be difficult for some patients to navigate. SHOEBOX has developed an online test that solves these issues. SHOEBOX Online is unique in its ability to provide teleaudiology hearing screening effectively and categorize people based on their hearing ability; good hearing, loss, and significant hearing loss. This test leverages patented Dynamic Range technology and a number of factors to produce an effective screening solution for software-based testing.
These include device and transducer compensation, a dynamic predictive questionnaire, a new test methodology, multi-frequency tone detection, and soon the hearing level curve shape.
The test can be accessed from any mobile device, tablet, or laptop and was carefully designed to be very simple to use and understand when the results are presented to the user. Many clinicians are counting on this effective online test to help them through these challenging times. It enables them to continue to remain engaged with their newer clients and those who have the potential to become new clients. It is also helping them to more easily determine who to prioritize and who can potentially wait until conditions begin to return to our new normal. Many clinicians are interested in starting with the online test to help them decide who really needs to be met with curbside hearing testing.
In those states and countries where remote hearing aid evaluations are permitted, some are using this online test as one of many tools in their workflow to help them begin the shift to selling online as well. For those patients who fall into a hearing loss category, clinicians have options for how best to send them hearing devices. Remote counseling and the absence of any contraindications will still be required, but having SHOEBOX Online in the clinician’s toolkit could be useful at this time.
This approach is admittedly a stop-gap until such time that the patient can visit the clinic, but for some, this approach is helping keep the lights on during this pandemic.
At-Home Hearing Testing
Although this might seem unrealistic right now, this idea is similar to testing at the curbside. In this case, the clinician travels to the patient. They drop off the disinfected SHOEBOX audiometer at the front door and wait in their car. They can offer consulting and provide instructions on how to self-administer the automated test over the phone and from a distance. Once complete, the outcome of this test is a full air-conduction audiogram. The clinician retrieves and disinfects the iPad and then reviews the results from their car. They do this to ensure there are no issues with the test before returning to their clinic. With this, they can pre-program an appropriate pair of hearing aids if the test indicates they are required and the patient is ready to make the purchase. Whether they choose to ship them out or drop them off, SHOEBOX Audiometry is helping them continue to offer services and sell products.
No one knows precisely how long this will last, but I think it is safe to assume that it will be at least a few more months of self-isolation and physical distancing. Can your business afford to remain closed for that long, or is it time to think creatively about doing things differently? SHOEBOX is open to your ideas, and we welcome any opportunity to brainstorm how we might be able to help. Going mobile and offering remote testing seem to be great options. But maybe there is more we can do if we put our heads together.