Great Debate: The Current Model for Audiology Clinical Practice Where Product Sales Seem to Be the Center of Our Existence is an Appropriate Model to Sustain the Future of the Profession
Saturday, March 29, 2014
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Presenters: David Citron, Ph.D., South Shore Hearing Center; Robert DiSogra, Au.D., Audiology Associates of Freehold; Richard Gans, Ph.D., American Institute of Balance; Richard Roberts, Ph.D., Alabama Hearing and Balance Associates, Inc.
Contributors: Barry Freeman, PhD, Audiology Consultants, Inc.; Myles Kessler, Au.D., Ear, Nose and Throat
The Audiology profession has gone through significant positive changes in the past few decades as we have transitioned to a doctoral level profession and are continuing to achieve professional autonomy that provides us with the rights and privileges of other independent healthcare providers.
Next, the very good news…
We are not running out of patients anytime soon. During the next three decades, the population of the United States is expected to increase significantly, particularly for the population age 65 years and older. The population of 65-84 year olds is expected to double while the population 85 years of age and above will nearly triple. Given that at least 30% or more of persons between the age of 65 and 84 years have significant hearing loss, and 50% of persons age 85 years and older have significant hearing loss, the increase in numbers of individuals in these age ranges will lead to an increased demand for audiology services. The high incidence of tinnitus and dizziness in these same age groups will further increase demands for Audiology services for the next 30 years.
Yet, we seem mired in our focus on product sales as a source of our existence. Products seem to have become the center of our universe. Historically, this has been advantageous to the profession and has led to a proliferation of independent private practices during the past three decades with audiologists able to achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals. However, device-dependence has led us away from our heritage as a profession founded on the principles of audiologic diagnosis, management, and treatment. The device appears to have taken “center stage” to patient management rather than just being a part of our entire treatment plan. As Woods (2013) recently noted in an article to Veterinarians, “If all you do is sell a product, differentiation is impossible because your industry can be cannibalized by corporate America.”
As a profession, our success can be measured by our improved educational requirements, enhanced scope of practice, improved access to patients, better recognition in the healthcare system, increased perceived value by consumers of hearing care, and a general recognition as the leading providers of hearing and balance care. We even have successfully influenced improvements in technology and better global awareness of hearing loss these past three decades. However, there is no need to tell audiologists that healthcare is changing. Our dependence and focus on devices to achieve our financial goals may soon become a practice of the past. We already know more patients are purchasing hearing aids online, from manufacturer owned or affiliated practices, or from discounted big-box stores. This has led to priced-based competition, increased demand for products, and commoditization of hearing instruments. Audiologists clutching to the product as the center of their universe will find lower margins and a greater challenge achieving their financial goals in the future.
This session has been organized as a “debate” between 4 respected members of our profession who bring diverse and successful practice experiences. They have been asked to debate the statement:
The current model of audiology clinical practice where product sales seem to be the center of our existence is an appropriate model to sustain the future of the profession.
The participants in this session will debate our current model of service delivery to patients, including an increasing dependence on product sales relative to diagnostic services for revenue generation, the impact of third party and direct-to-consumer products and services, an increasing role of surgical implants with traditional hearing aid patients, remote access to patients globally through tele-health, and our ability to respond to the anticipated demands for our services through efficient and cost-effective hearing and balance services. Those taking the pro-side will defend the statement and those taking the con-side will argue against the statement.
The Great Debate is intended to be thought provoking as well as entertaining. Audience participation is welcome but the participants have requested audience members refrain from throwing heavy objects at the debaters. This session promises to be the highlight of the conference. Don’t miss it!