Patients and their primary-care physicians both stand to benefit from a referral to a qualified hearing healthcare practitioner. In “Getting the Ear of the Busy Physician,” a free webinar hosted by The Hearing Review and sponsored by CareCredit, hearing healthcare marketing expert Robert “Bob” Tysoe explains why physician/audiologist referrals are critical to patient health—and to the success of your practice.
“As everyone is aware, change is upon us in the hearing healthcare industry,” says Tysoe, founder and marketing consultant for Hearing Healthcare Marketing Company in Portland, Ore. “More and more people are looking to the primary care physician as a potential referrer of new patients to their practice, to solidify their place in hearing healthcare, to increase the number of patients who are referred from the physician, and to increase their revenue to make sure that they ensure their financial survival and their professional survival.”
To equip audiologists with a proven strategy for building their referral networks, Tysoe pledged to cover:
- How a physician’s office typically operates;
- Whom you should target and “educate to obligate;”
- Various strategies for getting your foot in the door and gaining referrals from doctors and patient care coordinators (PCCs).
Make the Total Office Call
The physician is the “revenue engine” for every practice, Tysoe explains in the webinar, but every staff member plays a role in each patient’s care outcome. Reaching the doctor(s) should not be the hearing care practitioner’s only goal. Every staff member, including receptionists, nurses, and medical assistants, should know how to refer a patient to your practice.
Tysoe suggests keeping detailed, accurate records of names and conversations, and freely distributing this content folder to every medical professional that’s encountered. He advises that practitioners explain how the information it contains benefits the practice and each staff member. This will, in effect, make them the “learning champions” who will pass their newfound knowledge and your sense of urgency on to the physician.
The ultimate goal, Tysoe says, is to become a trusted partner and, essentially, a team member. “We should find out who is responsible for that at each practice, and we should be sure we are in their computerized database of specialists to whom they would refer those patients.”
Acknowledge the Doctor’s Priorities
Efficacy, side effects, and cost are the physician’s priorities for patient care, Tysoe explains, and a skilled hearing care practitioner can and should address all three.
“Be prepared to explain the problem you want to help them solve, especially the negative consequences of uncorrected hearing loss,” he says, including:
- Increased risk of falls,
- Risk of accelerated dementia,
- Risk of loss of job,
- Risk of social isolation.
Physicians must also be aware of potential side effects, including hyperacusis, auditory deprivation relating to monaural treatment when binaural care is indicated, and irritation of the ear canal experienced by some users of in-the-ear (ITE) devices.
When addressing the ever-present issue of cost, Tysoe says, the availability of a financing option is critical.
“The statement I usually make is that CareCredit helps minimize the ratio between the patient’s income and the patient’s outgo when they’re fitted with hearing aids so that they’re comfortable with that monthly payment so that it doesn’t become a financial burden.”
Address the Intangible Benefits of Hearing Care
Patient engagement is critical to successful outcomes. Doctor’s instructions and recommendations must be heard to be followed. Patients who are depressed or socially isolated may be less likely to venture out to seek treatment. Hearing care addresses both concerns.
Citing a 2014 study published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Tysoe notes that analysts found the prevalence of moderate to severe depression to be:
- 9% for participants reporting “excellent” hearing,
- 1% for those with “good” hearing,
- 4% for those with disordered hearing.
“That depression may be related to untreated hearing loss, and it may be a significant benefit to the treatment we provide,” he says.
Audiologists also can educate doctors on the comorbidities to hearing loss and “improve their health literacy” with clinical research articles and educational materials. By promoting the benefits of hearing care and the risks of nontreatment, you can serve more patients and help their primary caregivers build better, more effective practices. You just have to get your foot in the door.
“Physicians will not necessarily be quick to see you,” Tysoe says. “I would ask you to think about being a solution-oriented optimist in the long term and a solution-oriented realist in the short term. You will succeed with sheer perseverance and attention to detail.”
To listen to the webinar in its entirety for free, click here and follow the appropriate links.