–Brian Taylor, AuD, Editor-at-Large
Over the past decade, several studies indicate that over a ten-year period, older adults with untreated hearing loss are at an increased risk of acquiring several conditions, including a 52% increased risk of dementia, 41% increased risk of depression and a 21% increased risk of falling.
Additionally, costs and utilization of the healthcare system are greater for those with untreated hearing loss. We know, for example, that untreated hearing loss results in a 46% higher overall healthcare costs, which translates to an additional $22,000 per person in higher healthcare costs. This April 2019 podcast from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) summarizes these findings.
Raising Awareness Among Physicians
Since most of these conditions linked to hearing loss are often first discussed with a family or primary care physician, it is a reasonable assumption that hearing care providers need to raise awareness among these medical gatekeepers about the importance of periodic hearing checks.
Of course, this is not a new idea. More than 15 years ago, the Hearing Instrument Association’s Better Hearing Institute, under the direction of their executive at the time, John Olive, created an effective turnkey physician marketing program. More recently, experts like Bob Tysoe have created elaborate programs that effectively (and ethically) educate physicians about the deleterious effects of untreated hearing loss. Bob’s program even teaches other people within the practice how to orchestrate his program.
A major challenge, however, associated with any of these physician marketing campaigns is that the average primary care doctor is overburdened.
According to a 2009 Duke University study, for a primary care physician to deliver all the recommended preventive, chronic and acute care services to 3,000 patients (a typical caseload for one primary care doc) with a mean U.S. age and disease distribution, that primary care doctor would have to work 17 hours a day — seven days a week, all year, without a break.
This would suggest that no matter how well crafted the message from a hearing care provider about why a primary care physician should be referring patients for a hearing test, that message is simply not being heard.
Using modern technology (maybe not that modern since the internet and e-mail have been around for 25 years) and a carefully executed plan, your ability to share those pertinent stats summarized in that NEJM podcast can create much needed urgency among primary care physicians and their staff to, in turn, encourage their patients to get a hearing check from a local provider.
For insights on how this can be accomplished in any hearing care practice, I encourage you to take a look at this video.
Using email to develop relationships with physicians in your community is yet another component of a modern, multiprong customer acquisition strategy.