Understanding that I am most certainly not the brightest bulb in that box, so to speak, I ask a lot of questions. Or, honestly just sit quietly, and listen. Now, I happen to have the most incredible colleagues imaginable. They range from dispensers like myself, with little more formal education than high school, and a great deal of technical, and hands on training, through to AUDs, PHDs, M.Ss., M.D.s, M.E.E.s, and let’s not forget those Esq.s.
Thank God, there are lots of them, who are also great about sharing how they go about their practices.
These professionals, are a tremendous asset to the rest of us, and much of what I’ve learned about patient care over the years, has been from these great folks. Often, in the some of the most informal of settings. I’m grateful to each, and everyone of them along the way, who has enriched my life, and practice by sharing a little bit of theirs, and how they go about serving their patients.
One of the things I’ve learned along the way of thirty years of dispensing at retail, is that practices tend to be either professional, or patient centered in their operations.
On one end of this scale you have the professionally centric practice. These are often operating out of, and adjunct to a doctor’s office, and by what has become know as the Harvard Medical Model. Particularly in busy ENT, or Otolaryngological practices. The doctors at such practices need good audiological data to make accurate diagnosis, and design patient care regimens.
They often employ one, or more highly qualified audiologists to perform these diagnostics. Because these folks are highly educated, trained, and paid, their time is very valuable, so their schedules are tightly managed.
These practices are mostly reimbursed, and compensated by third parties, either insurance companies, or medicare, and so there is a premium on packing, as many code-able, and billable procedures, as possible into their day.
Counseling, cleaning, servicing, and adjusting hearing aids, are not their top billing codes at these busy practices. Fact is, those procedures aren’t even recognized, nor compensated for in many plans. The result of this is that such post fitting service is often neglected, and service scarce.
If, these practices fit hearing aids, it is rather, as a sideline, and that is what the patient tends to get when needing care, and service after the fitting, sidelined.
On the other end of the scale you have those practices that are very patient centered.
In these practices they are as concerned with the quality of the patient’s experience, as they are with the care, and fitting. They follow a much more experience driven approach, as described best in Michael Gerber’s E myth series.
From first contact, the patient centered practices make the patient feel welcome. For these practices time with the patient, is something to be encouraged, as they view the entire process differently.
The patient centered practitioners understand, that every single patient, has different needs, expectations, limitations and abilities. Due to these differences not only in degree of loss, but actual neural structure, of our individual brains, we all not only see the world differently, but hear, and process it’s sounds differently.
Those of us practicing patient centered dispensing understand that none of us actually hear with our ears, but rather with our brains. We understand that these critical processing pathways, and centers may become degraded with lack of use, or any number of the things that life throws at us each day.
No one experiences life, or sound the same way.
Patient based practitioners, of all specialties realize this. We know it takes listening to our patients, and their experiences, in order to serve them well. Experience has taught that by simply listening, you will get to hear some remarkable stories, and get to know incredible, and wonderful people along the way. I know.
By taking the time, and centering on what our patients goals, and their expectations, budgets, and experiences are, we are not only able to give them a more personalized hearing aid fitting, in this era of big box chains, and internet click, and hear promises, but we also get to know the very best patients in the known universe.
In the patient centered practice, service, adjustments, or repair needs are seen, as further opportunities to demonstrate why you went there in the first place.
Appointments are always available when you need them, or they make time for you to just walk in. When you get there, everyone makes you feel comfortable, and at home. You can tell that they actually want to take care of you, and your concerns.
Patient centered care, is about providing an entirely different patient experience. You may well get the exact same set of hearing aids from a great, but over worked audiologist, or even over the internet, or from that big box, warehouse store.
But, the end result, the real true value of these little wonders just won’t be unlocked, unless they are fit, and fine tuned to the way your own, individual brain processes all those wonderful sounds that make up the world we live in.
Oh, and guess what, our brains, even as we age, remain incredibly plastic.
That’s right the neural pathways that connect our ears, and our central auditory processing centers change, and sometimes rapidly, due to new, and different stimuli, like getting hearing aids for the first time.
The patient centered practice understands this, and not only expects to help you adjust, but is looking forward to making those changes, and unlocking more of the potential available in today’s gear, as your system adapts, and is able to use it.
The patient centered practice is about you, the patient, not the professional, nor any particular set of procedures, or brand of hearing instrument.
The patient centered practice is about building, and maintaining a relationship of trust, and caring. A relationship where the person coming to us is treated as such, with dignity, respect, and an understanding that they have a particular reason, and purpose for coming to us.
Patient centered practitioners realize that while we may know a tremendous amount more than our patients do concerning the subject of hearing, hearing care, hearing aids, anatomy, physiology, and physics, that the only reason they are there, in front of us is, for us to put our knowledge, and skill to work in solving their problems, and reaching the goals that they came to us for in the first place.
Patient based practitioners realize that their value lies solely in what they add to that patient's life and life's experiences.
If, we were to distill the differences between the two practice styles, I think it can best be summed up by what one of our patients said, after visiting a very busy local ENT/Audiology practice, before coming to us. Here is what he said:
“Over there, even after I finally got an appointment, I felt like a set of walking billable procedures. Over here, you make me feel welcome, and at home.”
That friends, is the entire idea. We want you to feel at home. Not just the first time you call, or come in. But, every single time. We want you to feel welcome, and at home. It is the essence of patient based hearing care.
It is why we are blessed with some of the best patients in the known universe.
Thanks for stopping by. If, there is anything we can do, just call, write, or drop by, we'll be happy to demonstrate what we mean.