Best practices in audiology recommend defining set protocols and procedures for patient care and follow-up. We have many resources to pull from for this guidance in our audiology organizations, in the current evidence-based literature, as well as our state and local legislative and licensure guidelines.
Each service we provide in a clinic should have a standard of care protocol and a test battery and service definition that we consistently follow that is backed up with literature. With this structure in place, clinicians can be confident when reviewing why they do what they do with patients, insurance companies, and other professionals. This need has never been more important than now, as our landscape is changing for services in the era of over-the-counter (OTC) legislation.
Kochkin et al (MarkeTrak, 2010) examined the relationship between satisfaction with hearing aids and the use of a pre-fitting clinical protocol. The authors evaluated various components of the fitting and pre-fitting protocol and concluded that the majority of clinicians failed to implement many of common sense “best practice” approaches. These items included such things as real ear, patient questionnaires, MCL and UCL measures, providing a positive office environment, and earmold/custom fitting options. Those practices that do not define a clear and consistent guideline for what they do are at greater risk for disruption by competitors and outside service options.
Taking inventory of your practice services, provision, clearly defining them, and aligning them with the most current Academy guidelines is essential to good patient services. This should be reviewed regularly; update any forms, processes, or products that are utilized to ensure the most recent and appropriate technology and guidelines are in place. It is too easy for practices to get comfortable and used to the status quo of how things were always done. A healthy practice challenges why they do what they do and modify their approach to patient care accordingly.
Take stock of your office, the waiting room, the check-in, and check-out process, and the exam rooms, as if you were a patient and ask yourself is this the experience you would want a family member to have? Do you have appropriate literature? Is the office clean, neat, and welcoming? Is staff friendly and engaging? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then time to update and make changes. Challenge what you do and validate it. This will make a practice and clinician stronger and provide the care patients desire.