RESTON, VA/ROCKVILLE, MD/LEXINGTON, KY–In a rare display of cooperation, America’s three largest organizations of audiologists sent a joint statement to their respective members last week, urging them to be mindful of and responsive to the ongoing “paradigm shift to consumer-driven health care.”
The communiqué, e-mailed August 16 to audiologists belonging to the American Academy of Audiology, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, explained:
“There have been many changes in the delivery of hearing health care services over the past few years. Patients are demanding more transparency; they are questioning the cost of hearing aids and the services provided, and may be coming to your practice with a device purchased over-the-counter or through the Internet. We believe that this is a trend that is not going to go away.”
Because of all the changes, the letter from AAA, ASHA, and ADA continued, “It is time to take a critical look at our current service (and product) delivery models and decide what changes need to occur to secure our professional future and to ensure continued and increased access to consumers who need the care we provide.”
The letter listed a number of developments that are changing the world in which audiologists practice their profession. These included federally funded research to make hearing care services more accessible and more affordable, advances in tele-audiology, and the development by manufacturers of new software and phone apps to help consumers program their hearing aids remotely.
Also cited were direct-to-consumer sale of hearing aids and the involvement of insurance companies in the sale and delivery of hearing aids, apparent reference to hi HealthInnovations.
INACTION SEEN AS RISKY
In the face of these and other changes, the statement asserted, “It is incumbent upon us to establish audiologist-driven, patient-centric models that effectively address the challenges of greater access to effective and affordable hearing health care–or we risk being minimized in the delivery of hearing health care in the future.”
The statement cited complaints by consumers that the cost of hearing aids and the way in which services are currently delivered act as barriers to access to hearing health care. It went on to contend:
“We firmly believe that audiologist-directed hearing health care can be the solution to more effective and efficient service delivery. It is incumbent upon us to establish audiologist-driven, patient-centric models that effectively address the challenges of greater access to effective and affordable hearing health care. Otherwise, we risk our services being minimized in the hearing health care delivery system of the future.
A MESSAGE TO MEMBERS
The audiology organizations went on to ask members to play a role in adapting to changing demands. Their statement said, “We urge you to consider how your individual practice may be impacted by the paradigm shift to consumer-driven health care… We believe that all audiologists should understand the changing climate and review their current practice models for sustainability.”
The letter presented audiologists with a number of questions and suggestions about their practices that, it said, “may help you gauge how well your practice model aligns with new hearing health care paradigms and determine if adjustments are needed.”
Among the questions posed were:
• “Are the costs associated with the care you provide transparent to the patient?”
• “Do you provide treatment for hearing loss that reflects the full scope of practice for audiology?”
• “How do you plan to engage consumers in your local area to facilitate and enhance access to your services?”
In closing, the letter suggested some resources that might help audiologists “navigate this paradigm shift.” It also invited members with questions or information they want to share to “reach out to your respective organizations,” specifically by e-mailing: Pam Mason of ASHA at firstname.lastname@example.org; Melissa Sinden of AAA at email@example.com; or Stephanie Czuhajewski of ADA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HEARING LOSS ASSOCIATION APPLAUDS AUDIOLOGISTS’ STATEMENT
Just days after the three organizations issued the joint statement, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) released a statement of its own praising them “for joining HLAA in supporting consumer needs and setting a path for audiologists to evaluate how their practices will respond to and work in a new hearing health care delivery system.”
The consumer advocacy group added, “The statement echoes and reinforces HLAA’s long-standing campaign for accessible and affordable hearing health care through itemization, price transparency, and audiology services beyond the sale of hearing aids, including aural rehabilitation counseling and information about assistive listening and alerting devices.”
Diana Bender, president of HLAA’s board of trustees, stated, “We are thrilled to see that the three national professional organizations for audiologists are working together to ensure their members get the news that hearing health care needs to be accessible, affordable, and available to a far wider number of consumers.”