Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from the original post on“An Ear Geek Blog.”
We’re already two weeks into the new year—have you kept your resolutions? Try these three action steps for a better perspective in 2018.
As an audiologist, I know you are well aware of the changes facing our profession. Navigating the world of third-party payers, PSAPs, and internet sales can be dizzying (and not in a way that can be measured on a VNG [videonystagmography]!). So where do we go from here? How do we gain perspective, and find ways to refresh and push forward this year?
The landscape of audiology may be changing, but there’s still potential for growth and expansion. We just need to change our expectations! All professions face constant disruption in this age of technological advancements. It’s how you choose to react that results in if we sink or swim.
So rather than setting more resolutions, let’s set some intentions, goals and plans for 2018.
You can implement these three ideas today in your practice. You don’t need to do them all at once, and some may not apply depending on your practice setting. But I encourage you to read this list, take a moment to reflect, and write down three changes you can make now:
- Track your key performance indicators (KPIs).
If you’re a private practice owner or manager, you should already be doing this. If you’re an employee, you, too, should already be doing this! However, I know many audiologists who aren’t.
KPIs tell you how your practice is performing—how many hearing tests are converted to hearing aid evaluations (HAE), how many HAEs are converted to hearing aid fittings, return rate, binaural rate, and more.
You can also collect KPIs on support staff to determine if phone calls turn into appointments, and which marketing materials draw in patients and convert to fittings. The goal isn’t to make your staff more pushy, but if we genuinely want to help patients hear better, we should ensure patients are pursuing appropriate treatment.
A quick way to get started is to go through your schedule from the past year and calculate some of your KPIs manually. Start with your conversion rate. Look at past HAE appointments and create a spreadsheet with the number of patients you saw, the number who pursued devices, and the number of returns on a monthly basis.
This provides a percentage you can compare to the industry standard of 50 percent. Are at least 50 percent of patients who are eligible for hearing aids pursuing devices? Are they keeping them? Knowing your numbers gives you insight into what you’re doing well and what needs improvement.
- Make the most of your existing patient database.
Two years ago, I moved to a new city, and saw a new optometrist after being loyal to my previous optometrist for 15 years. This new optometrist hasn’t reached out to me once to remind me about a retest or to order contact lenses. Meanwhile, an online provider I once ordered contacts from emailed me twice just this month. If you don’t value your patients, keep in touch and keep them informed, they’ll find help elsewhere.
More private practice tips:
Find ways to turn visitors to your office into patients for life. Schedule annual hearing test reminders. Encourage referrals by giving out referral or business cards to share with friends and family. If a musician comes in to get custom earplugs, recommend they schedule a baseline hearing test and ask them to refer their bandmates.
The more ways you reach out to your existing patients, the less traditional advertisement avenues you’ll need to pursue.
- Schedule more regular follow-ups with patients
As patients leave appointments, schedule their next appointment.
We all know the pain of explaining how to change a wax guard for the 20th time. You may have counseled patients on this previously, but typically they have a steep learning curve with new devices, and wax filters get changed so infrequently that they forget. So do it for them.
I’ve observed and worked in more than 10 different settings. Some were private practices and others hospitals. I found it concerning how some clinics were “too busy” to schedule regular follow-ups. Patients aren’t always aware when their aids aren’t up to snuff, however, so we need to take the onus off them. Schedule regular cleanings—every three to six months—and you’ll see a big change in patient satisfaction. If this means hiring a technician or assistant, then do it. Repeat patients will increase your bottom line significantly.
In the end, the more ways you keep in touch with patients in a friendly manner, the more you solidify your position as their primary provider for hearing health care. Keeping patients happy and loyal will also reduce your stress and burnout as a provider, which can ultimately change your professional perspective.
So let’s scrap those failed resolutions and get planning for a new and improved 2018!
Sarah Beth, AuD, runs a private practice in Ontario, Canada. Follow her @SarahBethAud