If you feel you see an inordinate number of patients who need a hearing aid but don’t buy one right away, you are not alone. A recent study commissioned by CareCredit found that it takes patients an average of 97 days to purchase a hearing aid. And, when premium devices and other out-of-pocket costs are involved, the path to purchase stretches out even further.

The study was conducted via an online poll of 2,000 patients, all of whom had paid an out-of-pocket expense for healthcare purposes in the past 12 months or expected to do so sometime in the next 12 months. It’s clear from the results that cost is a key factor for hearing health consumers, with 84% of respondents saying they researched the cost of treatment.

By offering your patients the ability to finance their visits and the purchase of a hearing aid, you can remove a major obstacle to treatment and help increase sales. Let’s take a closer look at how low-interest payment plans work and how offering it can benefit your practice.

We Can Finance That

CareCredit is a health, wellness, and personal care credit card service that partners with healthcare providers and retailers to give patients the ability to finance their treatment, including the purchase of devices. For Nola Aronson, MA, CCC-A, partnering with CareCredit—and advertising that partnership with CareCredit-provided marketing materials—creates opportunities for sales that might otherwise have been lost.

“One of the first things you see when you walk into my office is that, on my front door, I have a sign that [says] I accept CareCredit,” says Aronson, owner of Advanced Audiology in Valencia, Calif. “When you get to the front desk, I have CareCredit brochures and applications displayed there so that people are aware we do have financing for hearing aids.”

Of course, professional audiology practices and hearing aid specialists are not the only source of these devices. Those who are suffering from hearing loss can find over-the-counter (OTC) devices online and at “big box” retailers, such as Costco—whether or not they have visited an audiologist.

In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would no longer enforce a requirement that said adult patients had to undergo a hearing test or sign a waiver before purchasing a hearing aid. The same announcement indicated the FDA is considering creating a category for OTC hearing aids that can be sold “without the requirement for consultation with a credentialed dispenser.”

The agency failed to mention the fact that the purchase of a hearing aid is only one component in comprehensive and effective treatment plan that also requires professional testing, follow-up, and calibration. In response to an “Ask the Expert” question about how to differentiate a private practice in a big-box world, Elissa Sorkowitz-Lejeune, a partner in the Boca Raton, Fla-based Royal Palm Hearing Aid Center, said these services continue to make audiologists indispensable.

“You are with them every step of the way in their hearing journey,” Sorkowitz-Lejeune says. “That means personalization of their particular problem. You are giving them back quality of life with connectivity and personalization.”

Helpful Information

Jean Moody, who serves as CareCredit’s West regional manager, encourages practitioners who partner with CareCredit to follow Aronson’s example and make the availability of the financing service known to every patient. Citing the aforementioned study, she says the results prove providers are the primary source of information about payment options.

“The vast majority—82%—actually sought information from the provider’s office,” Moody says. “And even though cost was a significant concern, 74% of patients said they were not made aware that financing options were available to help them with their hearing healthcare purchase.”

In addition to window stickers, brochures, posters, and tent cards, the company has introduced CareCredit Direct, a free, web-based program providers can share on a patient-accessible desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. Patients can use CareCredit Direct to calculate monthly payments and obtain an instant credit decision. If they are approved, they can use their new CareCredit card on the spot. Moody says CareCredit Direct is easy to navigate, private, and secure.

“Because it’s designed for patients to use on their own, it can save your practice time and simplify your routine. You no longer have to collect personal information or communicate credit decisions to your patient—nor do you need to retain a copy of the CareCredit application on file.”

Calling her partnership with CareCredit the “best thing” she has ever done for her patients, Aronson said the ability to finance is paying dividends for her practice.

“I am a patient advocate, and what I want to do is make sure that you, as a patient, can afford the best and get the best and not have to worry,” Aronson says. “So that is why I love to offer CareCredit financing in my practice. And it has been so successful that nobody has to walk out the door that really needs a hearing aid.”

This content was provided to the 4MyHearingBiz community by contributing writer Tariq Kamal, courtesy of CareCredit and The Hearing Review.