Hearing Aid Industry at a Crossroads
Central to these discussions was a growing understanding that any enforcement activities on the part of the Florida Board of Hearing Aid Specialists, or any other jurisdiction, of their strict minimum standards, mandated protocols, and ever more reaching restrictions on their licensees, for anything being done with impunity, by these health Insurance giants, runs smack dab up against the guaranteed protections offered under section one of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States of America.
As you might imagine, lasting as long as it did, the topics of conversation ranged from member perceptions, to and through recruitment, training, minimum standards, and certification rather than licensing, as well as the formation of another competing chapter within the state.
My advice was nothing new, and really quite simple. In fact one of the most important points we discussed was just that, keeping things short, and simple. Starting at the top:
- Stop treating both the consumer, and members as stupid children, who must have their decisions made for them, because they are incapable of making good ones on their own. Restricting consumer choice, and professional discretion protects neither, while killing competition, innovation, and access.
- Stop making rules that require members to deal with IHS, or an affiliate in order to operate, or expand their practices, or get their continuing education. As with above, you simply don’t demonstrate your value, by compelling people to buy from you. In some places that’s considered extortion. The practice kills competing products, ideas, and innovation. The licensee or member should determine the value of your, or anyone else’s offerings, not the Board of Hearing Aid Specialists, through their rule-making.
- Stop thinking of, and talking about the devices we use only as single use medical devices, when in fact, they are application driven, ear level, dual input, ultra low drain, high speed audio processors, complete with on-board wireless networking and communications capabilities. In short not the gear either your regulations were written for, or your organization formed to originally promote.
- Develop a training and certification program for new hires that will allow us to put new folks to work earning a living that can be implemented in such a way as to use the tools of today, including the emerging field of telemedicine, where the professional and patient may be separated by miles yet connected via live video links.
- Stop fighting the facts on the ground. Instead use the science that UnitedHealthcare did to open up the profession. Our entire industry did a bit over $5.5 billion last year. UnitedHealthcare did $122 billion last year. They did their own internal, scientifically conducted, peer reviewed and validated science of the actual risk benefit analysis of our established, and enshrined ‘best practices’ and simply rejected them as excess. Delivering ‘the Best’ is something best determined by the market, not a list of mandated protocols and procedures. Believing that this $5.5 billion dollar tail, is going to wag that $122 billion dollar dog, is pure make believe. Past time to move on.
- Use the facts on the ground to challenge state regulations that are excessive. Given the current facts on the ground and the de facto unequal protections, half as much spent on a good constitutional lawyer, would go far further than all the lobbying in freeing up members, and opening up the profession and organization to much needed young blood. Even if it alienates some of the old guard, it will win far more by demonstrating that IHS is on the side of the professional, not the self serving.
- Forget about the howls of academic audiology, and their representative organizations. They are hurting greatly by the realization that raising their accepted entry level to that of a PHD, just to perform the procedures they do, while never achieving that cherished medical gatekeeper status of the MD, and now loosing what limited control over the sale of hearing aids, as they’ve had, is a truly painful experience. Fifty years of evolved doctrine, years of very expensive education for something they see control of slipping away, is truly a cathartic experience for those facing the facts.
As to what we need to do with our consumers going forward? That too is really quite simple.
- Find new and exciting ways to help them enrich their lives using the incredible new tools at our disposal.
- When we find that we can’t achieve their goals, simply give them their money back. No one can please everyone all the time. You don’t need to. There are millions of folks looking for an enriched life experience using what we have to offer. When you have someone who’s not happy with your offering, simply bless them, give them their money back and move on.
- Give each and every consumer with whom you deal with the very best you have to offer. Create a unique experience for them that serves their needs in a way that they want to repeat and tell their friends about.
It’s what we call being patient centered, and results oriented.
Focus on helping that person right in front of you, right now. Use all of your skills to meet their goals. Do it with a smile and through an experience they’ll enjoy, and hopefully tell their friends about.
Forget about what the guy, or gal down the street is, or isn’t doing. If, their consumers are happy, what concern of yours is it?
If they aren’t happy, well there is your opportunity to make them so, by providing them with an experience that they do enjoy. It’s what the marketplace is for. You only need fear it, if you can’t demonstrate your value, and find folks won’t do business with you, unless you compel them to, by taking away their choices to do otherwise.
It is a real scary time right now for some folks in our profession. Those who’ve counted on regulations to restrict access, and control the market and manner in which hearing aids are bought, and sold are having a real rough time awakening to this new reality.
Those running fear based organizations like the FSHHP, and the way IHS was run in the past do indeed have a great deal to fear, if they continue to try to operate, and manipulate their membership, as they have in the past.
However, IHS, and those members who choose to have, and run Faith based organizations are seeing things in a whole new light.
How this bright new future evolves, is what’s happening right now.
Be Blessed, Well, Have Fun, Play Pretty, and remember the mission is very simply; to help more people, help more people hear better. Simply put those things that don’t serve the mission into the past, where they belong.