Headquarter's Report: Learning from Interdisciplinary Colleagues

This issue of Audiology Practices contains the inaugural column in the Insights from the Outside series, coordinated by CareCredit. The first interview includes advice and tips from interdisciplinary colleagues on how to increase referrals (this issue features a veterinarian and a dentist).

The idea grew from the 2017 AuDacity conference where a panel of interdisciplinary providers shared their ideas for service expansion, patient retention and maintaining relevance to consumers in an economy that encourages a do-it-yourself and tech-heavy approach to health care. We are very grateful to CareCredit for helping to develop this informative series.

In addition to the practical business advice offered by colleagues in allied clinical doctoring professions related to attracting more patients, and running more efficient practices, we can also learn a great deal about advancing advocacy initiatives to achieve professional parity under Medicare.

Optometrists successfully achieved Limited License Physician status under Medicare Part B in the late 1980s after a 20-year battle. They faced many of the same obstacles that audiologists face today in the quest for proper recognition under Medicare, including a distracted Congress with evolving priorities, the complacency of regulatory agencies, an under-informed and misinformed public, and direct opposition from both outside and within the profession. Despite formidable antagonists, and an often hostile environment, optometry succeeded in achieving its goals, first and foremost because optometrists were persistent.

As ADA continues to advance the Audiology Patient Choice Act through Congress, we are in good company. Today, the top advocacy priority for the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) is professional parity under Medicare. The American Psychological Association (APA) is advancing a bill in Congress to add psychologists as Limited Licensed Physicians. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has been working to ensure direct access to physical therapy services at both the state and federal levels for more than a decade.

As more clinical doctoring professions deliver a consistent message, Congress becomes more receptive to the case for Medicare parity with each passing year. Patient access challenges, streamlining services, and the aging of the medical/health care workforce have become an increasing focus for legislators, many of whom are from rural areas, or areas with large populations of older adults. There has never been a better time for the Audiology Patient Choice Act to be considered.

As an association executive, I have learned a great deal from my “interdisciplinary” counterparts representing these allied professional organizations. ADA continually evaluates the outcomes of their initiatives as we craft our advocacy strategies.

What I have found to be most instrumental in the success for those professions who have achieved Medicare parity is the tenacity, patience, and commitment of their association members. It is no surprise that the professional organizations whose members donate to the advocacy fund, contact their legislators, and get their friends and colleagues involved, year after year after year, have the advocacy initiatives that ultimately succeed.

Over the past several years, audiologists have demonstrated that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with as it relates to advocating for Medicare modernization and better patient access. However, we are at a point in the journey where endurance is tested. I for one believe that audiologists will continue to pursue the Audiology Patient Choice Act until it is enacted into law, and that one day audiology will be featured in an insights from the outside column in an allied profession’s publication.