Audiologists need to prepare for changes in audiology service delivery models that may affect the way they operate their practices, according to the three national organizations representing audiologists.
That's the message conveyed in an August letter [PDF]—signed by the leaders of ASHA, the American Academy of Audiology, and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology—sent to audiology members of all three organizations.
The letter urges audiologists to review their current delivery systems as consumer-driven health care takes center stage in recent federal health care reform efforts. The organizations developed the joint letter in response to the growing number of consumers who purchase hearing aids online or from their health insurance companies.
The letter provides a list of questions audiologists can use to assess their current practice models:
- What role does the sale of hearing aids play in your practice model? Do you have options in place to accommodate consumers who arrive at your practice with a hearing aid purchased elsewhere?
- Are the costs associated with the care you provide transparent to the patient? If appropriate, do you itemize the cost of your services? When discussing amplification and other treatment, do you offer patients options? Do you engage family and others to support the patient with hearing loss?
- Do you charge your patients appropriately for the products and services that you provide? Are you familiar with policies of competitive entities in your immediate locale? Are your services clearly defined and valued in your contracts with payer groups?
- Do you provide treatment for hearing loss that reflects the full scope of practice for audiology? Do you provide information on hearing assistive technology, listening training, and counseling—all of which could expand and enhance the service delivery model for your patients?
- How do you plan to engage consumers to facilitate and enhance access to your services?
- Do you use or have you considered employing audiology assistants to provide appropriate care under your supervision, thereby enabling you to expand professional services for your patients?
- Are you aware of your professional code of ethics, state licensure rules, and legal and regulatory guidelines that affect your specific practice setting (e.g., anti-trust policy, coding and billing practices)?
- Do you employ established best practices (verification, counseling, etc.) to ensure and improve patient outcomes? Do you measure patient satisfaction?
The letter also provides a list of resources to help clinicians navigate changes.
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the nation's leading organization representing people with hearing loss, issued a press release praising the three organizations for supporting consumer needs and setting a path for audiologists to evaluate how their practices will respond to and operate in a new hearing health care delivery system. Brenda Battat, HLAA executive director, called the letter a "watershed event for consumers" that validates HLAA's advocacy for accessible and affordable hearing health care.
For more information about changes in hearing health care service delivery, contact Pam Mason, MEd, CCC-A, director of audiology professional practices, at firstname.lastname@example.org.