New technology is constantly being developed to improve our ability to diagnose, treat, and care for a variety of medical conditions. One up-and-coming technology trend is telehealth. Some of the telehealth tools that we have already seen include services that enable video conferencing between doctors and patients, and apps that assist in patient care. In the field of hearing care, such tools also improve healthcare delivery for both patients and service providers.
TeleHealth tools save time for professionals and patients
It is common practice in hearing care to bundle the cost of consultations and service provision into the price of the hearing aid. As such, follow-up and fine-tuning appointments after hearing aid sales are often free of charge. Dedicated telehealth tools like texting apps offer a secure platform for patients and hearing care professionals (HCPs) to easily communicate and problem-solve in a few minutes without an office visit. Hearing telehealth apps can even allow HCPs to remotely adjust the hearing aids’ settings. This is convenient for the patient, but also saves the HCP valuable appointment time.
Telehealth apps can also contain simple instructional videos, FAQs, and troubleshooting guides so that patients have the information readily available to them on their smartphone. This way, they can often easily solve their problems before contacting the HCP and feel empowered with greater confidence in their new hearing experience.
Telehealth apps help hearing care professionals widen their reach
Telehealth apps can bring patients and HCPs closer than ever before. With a reduced number of necessary in-office appointments eliminated by in-app messaging and calls, and remote hearing aid tuning features, HCPs can attract patients who live physically farther away, and are therefore less inclined to make repeated trips to the office. Similarly, they can provide services to less mobile patients who may be house-bound or live in care facilities.
Telehealth enables patient satisfaction monitoring
Patients buying new hearing aids typically have a two- to four-week home trial period before making the final purchase decision. Patient satisfaction during this time is crucial to the ultimate adoption of hearing aids. Unfortunately, this is also typically a “blind spot” for HCPs, because with the patient out of their office, they are not physically present to answer question and provide guidance when problems arise.
Telehealth apps for hearing aids allow wearers to rate their daily satisfaction. Apps can assign various listening activities for the patient to complete, such as “have dinner at a noisy restaurant” or “listen to music”, and then ask the patient to rate their satisfaction with the hearing aids in those situations. Satisfaction ratings are sent to HCP via the app, so that the latter can actively intervene to address patient concerns in a timely manner without waiting until the next follow-up appointment.
Telehealth apps serve as a practice differentiator
The hearing care industry is a competitive field. Patients can choose from independent hearing care practices, those affiliated with physicians, hearing aid dispensing chains, “big box” wholesale stores, or even bypass the HCP altogether and choosing an amplification product online or “off the shelf.”
One of the ways a hearing care professional can stand out from the crowd is by offering exceptional service. With in-app text and call features, telehealth apps promise potential patients access to the hearing care professional’s expertise and guidance even outside of regular office hours, the convenience of fewer in-office visits, and in-app usage and troubleshooting information. These advantages can be promoted as a part of the “white glove service” that HCPs can leverage to promote their practice.
Telehealth tools are good for business
Telehealth tools can help HCPs generate revenue in more than one way. First of all, time is money. By reducing the number of follow-up visits, telehealth apps help free up more time for professionals to attend to revenue-generating tasks, such as diagnostics or new patient fittings. And the increasing number of younger, tech-savvy, and smartphone-dependent patients with hearing loss will be attracted to HCPs who offer conveniences like telehealth apps.
Ultimately, patient satisfaction leads to business success. By being able to monitor patient satisfaction with their new hearing aids during their home trial period, and intervene quickly when problems and doubts arise, professionals can use telehealth apps to minimize barriers that otherwise result in hearing aid returns.
Although there are smartphone apps now that help us with almost every aspect of our lives, telehealth tools that use such technology are still relatively new to the hearing care profession. As they become increasingly powerful and popular, we can expect them to bring even more benefits to patients and hearing care professionals in the future.
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