As I write this message to you, COVID-19 is increasingly disrupting your ability to take care of patients, teach students, conduct your research, and run businesses, but most importantly, it is endangering you and the people you love. It is my sincere hope that, by the time you are reading this, we will be moving beyond the devastation.
The need for social distancing has highlighted the need for communication. As we have seen senior living facilities locked down, we know our patients need to hear on the phone to stay connected to loved ones and hear the TV to get news. Communication is essential to the human experience and you are essential to promoting and supporting that communication. This has been a reminder that it is essential that patients can find you and access you in whatever way is best for them at any given time.
More people than ever are receiving news about the relationship between untreated hearing loss and health and social outcomes. In addition, we are about to enter a time when there will be an onslaught of over-the-counter hearing aid choices. These forces are leaving consumers confused about where to go for help. You do not need the Academy to connect these help seekers to audiology in general, you need the Academy to connect these help seekers to you, specifically. Our Academy Foundation started the “Find an Audiologist” fundraising campaign this past fall for this very reason.
This campaign has one goal—to connect you (Academy audiologists) to patients seeking help for their hearing and balance problems. So much of what the Academy does benefits the entire profession and that is how it should be, but this initiative benefits you.
According to a 2013 PEW Research study, approximately 86 percent of patients will turn to the internet to conduct health-related research before booking an appointment with a health-care provider (Fox and Duggan, 2013). Google and Nielson Online reported that boomers are just as active as younger groups in searching for health-related content online, their searches are much more treatment-oriented, and they are ready to act (2010).
The first page of any Google search gets nearly 100 percent of all web traffic. You must be on the first page. It is impossible for the majority of members to do the work required to get on the first page of a Google search, but it is possible to get “Find an Audiologist” on the first page of Google searches, which, in essence, puts every Academy member on the first page.
Search engine optimization (SEO), among other online marketing strategies, puts the link to a website on the first page of a Google search return. SEO is not complicated, but it takes dedicated time and resources. Creating quality content and updating content are critical components of optimizing a site to have it come up in the first page of a search.
The “Find an Audiologist” feature on the Academy’s website needs to be overhauled and updated to meet these goals. SEO has one of the largest returns on investments of any digital marketing strategy. The funds raised by the Academy Foundation will pave the way to SEO for “Find an Audiologist” and directly benefit all our practicing members.
The thermometer below illustrates the fiscal milestones that move us toward ensuring that individuals searching for help will “Find an Audiologist” and, therefore, will find you.
Through donations from Academy leadership (boards, councils, and committees), we have reached the $75,000 mark. The leaders of the Academy have put their money on you and reached the first two goals!
Now it is your turn to contribute to this innovative initiative to reach the next milestone and move us toward ensuring that the people who need us can find us.
Catherine Palmer, PhD
American Academy of Audiology
References and Resources
Fox S, Duggan M. (2013) Health Online. Available at www.pewinternet.org/2013/01/15/health-online-2013 (accessed July 28, 2019).
Google, Nielsen Online, Sterling. (2010) The Inside Look at the Boomer Healthcare Consumer. Available at www.thinkwithgoogle.com/_qs/documents/915/inside-look-at-boomer-healthcare-consumers_research-studies.pdf (accessed July 20, 2019).
St. Clergy K. (2020) Digital marketing for private practice: how to attract new patients. Sem Hear 41(3):260–269.