Congress, Medicare, health insurance payers, health care administrators, and patients—all these groups insist on data-driven, efficient, high-quality health care. They also want to hold providers—including audiologists—accountable. These demands mean that changes to the health care system are inevitable, regardless of presidential and congressional races. In today’s health care economy, just about everyone agrees on the inefficiency of the standard, fee-for-service model.
Audiology should embrace the changes in reimbursement, service delivery and consumer options. The bottom line? Audiologists need to move away from a “one-size-fits-all” methodology of diagnostics and treatment and instead focus on:
- The individual patient and the functional needs in their environment.
- Answering clinical question quickly and efficiently, using evidence-based diagnostic and treatment methodologies.
- Offering consumers choices competitive with other available options.
- Interdisciplinary practice to help establish audiologists as the professional for hearing and balance services.
- Demonstrating the value—through data—of audiology services.
To get to where audiologists need to go, we need to collect data from practitioners who strive daily to solve their patients’ hearing health concerns. To motivate clinicians, Medicare will start scoring audiologists based on quality and outcomes data they provide, and then adjust reimbursement based on those scores. This system will likely start in 2019 and payment levels for individual clinicians will change based on those data. A consumer site—Yelp for Medicare, if you will—is in place to let the world see how audiologists compare with one another.
The good news is that ASHA has been ahead of the shift for several years. ASHA actively takes steps to ensure audiologists remain relevant during this “sea change” in health care. For example, we developed the Strategic Pathway to Excellence for 2015 to 2025. The primary priority for these strategic pathways involves “expanding data available for quality improvement and demonstration of value.” This task is my primary responsibility for the organization—and my personal passion for the profession!
ASHA continues to build our audiology registry to meet long- and short-term reporting needs of busy clinical audiologists. The National Outcomes Measurement System for Audiology (NOMS-A) is not being created in a bubble. We actively seek input from clinicians, supervisors, administrators and university clinic providers, so please give your feedback now through June 12.
We’re developing NOMS-A in stages, by first taking on adult health care to meet impending Medicare requirements. It includes four modules: intake, hearing loss, tinnitus and vestibular. Using computer-adaptive testing, the system guides audiologists through relevant data to minimize the time and burden to the clinician. We anticipate debuting the adult audiology registry in 2017.
Upon the successful launch of the adult registry, ASHA will develop pediatric audiology modules and additional conditions, such as one on auditory processing disorders.
Throughout development, ASHA will investigate all options for data entry to ensure the least amount of duplicative effort and greatest efficiency for clinicians. Most importantly, we hope to anticipate and meet the future needs of the audiology profession.
Lisa Satterfield, MS, CCC-A, is associate director of ASHA’s National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Communication Disorders. firstname.lastname@example.org