Editor's Message: Closing the Gap Between What and How

Author: Brian Taylor, Au.D.

This issue of Audiology Practices is a great example of the resilience of customizable, humanistic solutions in a world fast-becoming dominated by technology and automation. The first article in this issue (from three well-respected researchers), provides data suggesting that, despite two relatively longstanding trends to increase demand and lower retail prices: commoditization and vertical integration, consumers still desire a high quality product and service for the right price. One of the conclusions of this study from Marcoux, Lees and Amlani is that audiologists must strive to upgrade clinical procedures and other best practices because there is a demand for them: Our purpose as professionals, the “why” of what we do, is to provide the highest level of care possible with the reassurance people will pay a fair price for it.

Once the purpose is clear, we can begin the hard work of adding new clinical skills and programs that set our practices apart. The other articles in this issue are examples of new programs and skills we can weave into our existing clinical approaches—things that will help us stand apart from vertical integration and commoditization. Whether it is personalized content we push out to the community using social media, outreach programs targeting primary care physicians or informal validation tests patients find engaging, there are many novel, time-tested ideas we can use to help us stand apart as caring individuals trying to help fellow members of our community. Collectively, these programs and skills are the “what” of improving and differentiating our practices.

That leaves us with the most challenging component of striving to run a highly successful practice: the “how” of implementing new ideas and fresh programs. As Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel once famously told Harvard professor and disruptive innovator guru, Clayton Christensen, “You are such a naïve academic. I asked you how to do it, and you told me what I should do. I know what I need to do; I just don’t know how to do it.

There is no shortage of experts out there willing to tell us what we need to do to be more successful or to make more money, but the real magic happens when you master the “how” of implementation or skills acquisition. Tasks like acquiring a new clinical skill or implementing a new program require that we bridge the gap between the “what” and the “how”. Once you’ve decided to add a new wrinkle to your clinical skills or start a new program, here are some tips for how you implement it successfully.
  1. Clearly define what a new program or clinical skill looks like and get buy-in from the entire staff on why it’s needed.
  2. Break the skills needed to achieve the result into a series of definable behaviors. If needed, do some research to get this right.
  3. Establish a time line for when the new program or skill will be fully implemented.
  4. Devise a metric that will monitor progress over time. For a new clinical skill, this may require surveying customers to see if a new skill was performed with them.
  5. Use weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings with staff to ensure they are getting the coaching and guidance they need and each that members of the staff remain accountable for their progress.
The bottom line is the best clinical skills and programs are never fully realized without creating and executing a plan around “how” it will get done. Disruptive innovations, vertical efficiencies and automation are not needed; just good old fashioned, methodical management that gets results.