Editor's Message: It’s Time to Change the Mindset of an Industry

Author: Brian Taylor, Au.D.

In 2001, the Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, a multidisciplinary group created by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. Many of the report’s key terms—“evidence-based,” “patient-centered,” “transparent” are now the language commonly used to talk about healthcare quality. These terms have even found their way into Audiology circles.

Crossing the Quality Chasm—and of its companion report, the landmark To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, released two years earlier by IOM— combined to change the mindset of an industry, according to health care policy experts. In many ways, health care is still feeling the effects of these reports issued almost 15 years ago.

On June 2, IOM, now known as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), released another potential landmark report compiled by a multidisciplinary group of 17 experts, Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability. Will this new report send a seismic jolt through Audiology like those previous reports did to the entire health care industry? Only time will tell, but considering the abundance of evidence uncovering another chasm – the unmet need of individuals with hearing loss of adult onset, driven by affordability and accessibility issues – it is likely we will be feeling the aftershocks of the 400-page NAS report for years.

Considering demand for hearing services, due to the aging Baby-boomer population, is likely to increase by upwards of 50% over the next decade, forward thinking, entrepreneurial audiologists are poised to redefine the profession of audiology, using the NAS report as a template. This issue of Audiology Practices, which offers ideas on the clinical implementation of PSAPs, is but one tiny step in the journey toward redefining hearing health care.

This journey starts with our ability to provide services to a wider range of people with hearing difficulties. Historically, audiologists have delivered care to individuals suffering from the latter stages of sensorineural hearing loss. Often over the age of 75, these patients usually have complex losses requiring multiple appointments for counseling and adjustments to their hearing aids. Compare the two My Story articles in this issue – one from a long-standing patient with complex loss with a consumer who doesn’t believe he has a hearing loss – to appreciate the opportunity audiologists have to reach more people by creating innovative delivery models perhaps involving PSAPs and other hearables.

New approaches to delivering care to people who don’t view themselves as having a hearing problem is one facet of how we can put the new NAS guidelines into practice. Other exciting opportunities on the horizon include the use of community health workers to reach more people plagued by hearing loss, partnering with physicians and public health officials to prevent hearing loss from worsening other medical conditions, like depression and dementia, improving the quality of outcomes associated with hearing health care, providing only evidence-based interventions (this will require us to measure outcomes with validated self-reports and support independent research initiatives), and offering a wider range of treatment solutions. The practice of audiology, as we move into the third decade of the 21st century, like life, is a journey not a destination. This issue contains a few of the steps.