Blending Academic Rigor with Commercial Pragmatism: AR in Private Practice

Blending Academic Rigor with Commercial Pragmatism: A Report on Aural Rehabilitation and Auditory Training in the Private Practice Workshop

Washington University, St. Louis, MO. May 4 & 5, 2015

By Brian Taylor, AuD

Tad Zelski, Director Professional Practice Development, Widex

I have had the privilege of collaborating on a couple of different projects with Tad Zelski of Widex over the past few years.  If you practice in the New York metro area, you are likely to you view Tad as somewhat of an institution.

For decades, he has had a firm grasp of the advantages and limitations of ever-changing hearing aid technology, knows how to run a successful business because he has done it, and, based on my observations, established a cult-like following with customers in the NYC area and beyond.

That’s why when I caught word that Tad was organizing a meeting on a bigger stage, it warranted our attention at HHTM.

Expert Panel Assembled

Tad assembled a panel of world-renowned experts, including Nancy Tye-Murray, Robert Sweetow and Michael Valente to find ways to make Aural Rehabilitation (AR), which we all know to have real patient benefits in many cases, a revenue-generating activity. The main theme of the workshop, held at Washington University in early May, was to identify strategies for commercially viable aural rehabilitation therapies in a private practice setting.

You don’t have to be working in private practice to appreciate the impact a workshop like this may have on patient care and profitability. Here is what Tad had to say about the workshop he organized:

“Although many textbooks and research journals include the topic of auditory training, the sad reality is that very few clinical practices provide auditory training to their patients.  As such, there appears to be a disconnect between what is happening in research laboratories and what is happening in clinics, the result being that many auditory training programs that are developed in the lab do not make it out of the Ivory Tower.  We addressed this state of affairs head-on by convening a workshop for audiologists who work in private practice.  Our goal was to create a conversation between a small group of researchers, a representative from a hearing-aid manufacturer, and private practice clinicians.  The audiologists were thus given an opportunity to provide feedback about existing and emerging programs and to share their ideas about how auditory training might be incorporated into their clinical practice.”

Tad’s workshop included formal overviews of the effectiveness of auditory training, service delivery models, and marketing considerations.  Next, participants circulated through the conference room and viewed several current or beta-version auditory training programs.  During the remainder of the workshop, participants divided into working groups and prepared recommendations for how to make auditory training a standard entry into the options audiologists offer for comprehensive hearing-health care.

Tad continued, “Participants left the conference with the belief that aural rehabilitation options need to be considered for every patient that is seeking hearing care.   This was a major change in belief, as before the conference just 30% of the participants felt that AR could be a part of every patient’s hearing care plan. Aural rehabilitation can take place in the private practice setting.  Strategies for implementation of appropriate AR and auditory training are in the final stage of development for many of the participants. Participating practices are now in the process of making aural rehabilitation options a regular part of their hearing care strategy.”

Opportunities for AR in the Private Practice

According to Tad, opportunities for aural rehabilitation in the private practice were defined and steps to meet each item were identified, including:

  1. Competency in AR programs for both individual and group AR needs to be improved.
  2. The billing issues need to resolved and
  3. Scheduling of AR programs need to be developed
  4. Patient identification techniques for determine which type of AR to administer needs to be defined.
  5. Outcome measures need to be put in place

A Preview of Things to Come?

As you can see, there is considerable work to do in this area, but this workshop which blended academic rigor with commercial pragmatism is an excellent example of what our profession needs if we want to remain sustainable.

Additional workshops are being planned to expand on the programs developed at the workshop and to invite other interested audiologists to help assist in the implementation of successful AR in the private practice.

It’s refreshing to see someone of Tad’s caliber orchestrate such a much needed workshop with several experts. Let’s hope AR continues to be a service that improves patient’s lives, while also helping generate revenue for practices.

*Featured image courtesy Flickr

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