by Michele Hurley, AuD
As a hearing healthcare provider, you play a crucial role in helping the people in your community communicate effectively, maintain important connections, and stay engaged and informed — which is especially critical amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A majority of those who are sheltering in place or have fallen victim to the COVID-19 virus are older adults, many of whom have some degree of hearing loss. The ability to communicate face-to-face has been restricted – whether at home or when seeking services at essential businesses. Individuals in need of medical assistance may be alone, without support from family members or caregivers, which can create additional communication barriers and feelings of stress.
How you can help your patients right now
Coronavirus regulations and mandates vary from state to state and city to city. It’s important that you understand what is currently allowed in your community to maintain business onsite and also what precautions to take. Ensure that all staff understands the mandates and can implement the plan your business has in place to protect themselves, your patients and the clinic.
The traditional hearing healthcare model may be upended for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean that services must cease. You can work creatively to offer patient services while also adhering to social distancing guidelines. Here are some ideas:
- Implement phone screenings: Develop a triage plan with questions to be answered by the patient prior to scheduling an appointment to determine if the patient needs can be addressed virtually or require an in-person visit.
- Embrace telehealth: More hearing aids today offer remote programming features. Starkey, for example, now offers Hearing Care Anywhere remote programming for all Livio Edge AI, Livio AI and Livio hearing aids. A recent update to the Thrive App, 3.0.2 (iOS) and 3.0.3 (Android) allows the patient’s hearing aids to be enabled for remote programming virtually, providing immediate support without the patient visiting the office (For more details, see the Hearing Care Anywhere Protocol here).
- Offer curbside service: Does your staff have the ability to meet patients at their vehicles? If so, develop a procedure to safely accept and return product to a patient’s car.
- Communicate your message: Use your website, social media and other platforms to inform your patients of the measures your practice is taking to help and protect them during these challenging times.
How you can adapt to working from home
Working from home has become the new normal for many professionals, and with it comes new challenges like workspace, internet bandwidth and additional two-legged and four-legged distractions in the environment. Here are a few tips to help you work more efficiently and effectively:
- Set Boundaries
Establish a dedicated workspace in your home and treat each day as you would in your typical workplace. Start and stop work based on your typical schedule and ensure that others in the environment respect the boundaries you set for your home office.
- Create a Routine
Fight the urge to stay in your pajama bottoms all day! Getting yourself showered, dressed and prepared for work has been proven to help you perform better, even if your commute is just a walk to your home office. Use your “commute” time in a thoughtful manner:
- Eat a healthy breakfast or lunch. We often rush through these two meals. Taking time to sit down and enjoy them is important for our health, especially now.
- Share a thoughtful message. Thinking of others’ needs can be healthy for your own brain and create a rush of nourishing endorphins. Best of all, people are likely to return the favor and do something nice for you or others.
- Give compliments and positive reinforcement to those around you. Share positive messages and funny or inspirational content that has moved you.
- Get Outside
Sunlight produces serotonin and lowers blood pressure and the stress hormone, Cortisol. Fresh air helps clear you head. Make a plan to get outside for a walk or a bike ride every day.
Coronavirus is a reminder that time is precious, and that life can change quickly. Make a promise to yourself and others to keep your well-being, and that of others, a priority during these difficult times.
Michele Hurley Au.D. is a Senior Education & Training Audiologist with Starkey Hearing Technologies. She has over 20 years of experience in the hearing industry spending the first 7 years in clinical audiology and the past 25 years in a variety of roles in manufacturing: training, sales and technical support with Starkey. She earned her M.S. in Audiology at North Texas State University and Au.D. from the Arizona School of Health Sciences.