I was excited about the savings in time, administrative cost and additional patient benefits that came with their product’s ability to be programmed on the spot, and sold at whatever level of technology was most appropriate to the patient I was dealing with at the moment, without the need for a totally separate instrument for each price point, program load, and lifestyle.
I believe this due, to the obvious advantages in time, and administrative cost savings, as well as the greater value they afforded to the consumer.
When compared with a similar product, with totally predetermined sets of features permanently burned into both their casing, and chips by the manufacturers, at the time of assembly open platform instruments provide true after fitting flexibility. They add real value over traditional instruments to each fitting not only at that time, by their reduced administrative costs.
They add real value for the consumer as well, who is free to upgrade their initial program load, should their lifestyle needs dictate, without investing in new gear, paying only for the upgraded programming that can be done in the dispenser's office, on the spot.
The executives I was talking with at the time were, and are all great guys, very smart and collectively between the circle I was talking with, had probably fifty, or sixty years of combined experience in our industry. These guys were, and are responsible for designing and building some of the finest, most advanced, hearing aids in the world.
They had just demonstrated a set of instruments that communicated directly with a Zoom tablet, wirelessly. Now, this is something that required developing not only a tablet application, but a proprietary, ultra low drain communications protocol to allow the tablet to talk to the hearing aids and visa versa.
These were, and are, some very smart folks, with years of experience, expertise and business savvy. Yet, all of the benefits I was describing for doing things a little differently, were flatly rejected as being impossible. This, due to a long list of mostly fuzzy reasons. One fella brought up the fact that Philips Electronics, had tried the concept in the mid nineties, and hadn’t been able to make it work.
I pointed out that we’d had quite a few chip evolutions, along with the explosive evolution of the Internet since then, and thought that the benefits to everyone by moving the decision as to the level of programming was preloaded into our instruments, would make it worth every manufacturer’s efforts to pursue.
That is when I got the declaration that, “Sonova will make open platform work at the dispenser level, when pigs fly!” It was presented in such a way as to indicate that, that was the end of any discussion on the topic, and I was politely directed to the refreshment table.
Well, it will be three years since that discussion this month, and though Sonova folded their Sona experiment into their Unitron division in the fall of 2011, open platform didn’t go away. To the contrary, though they had many obstacles to overcome, new systems to develop, and an entire delivery, programming and accounting system to redesign, the team assembled by Unitron’s President and CEO, Rod Schutt, have proven that they are up to the task, and know a great idea when they see it.
Despite setbacks, bugs, and having to overcome the incredible inertia of well established systems, and thinking, the folks at Unitron have now released Sonova’s third generation, open platform hearing aid system, in their new Kiss line.
Now if, you’ve been following my writing for any length of time, you know that I’ve been a fan of the open platform, and consignment stocking pioneered by Sonova with their initial Sona offerings.
As a dispenser, open platform systems provide so many cost savings to our practice in time, money, and administrative overhead, and so many additional benefits to our consumers, while having so many potential future profit potentials for both manufacturers, and dispensers, that open platform should be a no-brainer for the entire industry.
There are so many potential rewards and savings to be had by evolving to open platform dispensing, that I predict that within two to five years, all hearing aid manufacturers will be providing their products in an open platform format, and allowing their customers the benefits of choosing just the right programs to fit each lifestyle, on the spot, without waiting, or having to invest in a large, diverse inventory, as well as the potential for upgrading as better software and signal processing become available, without the need to invest in new equipment in order to do so.
That’s right, I am predicting that the power of open platform at the dispenser level, to provide just the right tool, on the spot, without huge inventory requirements, and their ability to be upgraded with entire new program loads will change our industry.
The reason open platform dispensing hasn’t already changed dispensing has everything to do with stagnant thinking, and a self assurance that clinging to old, tried and true, but tired methods and systems are what is needed in today’s market.
Rod Schutt, and the folks at Unitron know better, and are changing not only our industry, but the entire hearing aid delivery system, in ways that will benefit us all, dispenser, consumer, and manufacturer, as they continue the hard work of, getting the bugs out, and coaxing pigs to fly.