Change Is Inevitable...

Author: Brian Urban, Au.D.

“Change is inevitable—except from a vending machine” —Robert C. Gallagher, businessman and former director of the Green Bay Packers

What it means to be an audiologist seems to be an ever-moving target. Unfortunately, while the threats and challenges are constantly discussed and debated, there does not appear to be much in the way of resolution. In addition, the technological landscape is shifting so rapidly that today’s answers may not apply to tomorrow’s questions. So how are we to navigate this unstable footing, while maintaining a high standard of care and ensuring the success of our practices? I believe that the first step is realizing that we are not alone.

From patient advocacy organizations to governmental agencies and from technology companies to physicians, hearing health care is getting attention like never before. As a result, we are seeing a shift in focus from hearing health care as an outlying “nice to have” towards and central “need to have”. Studies from Dr. Frank Lin and others are showing a connection between hearing loss and a plethora of public health concerns. Co-morbidities related to dementia, diabetes, smoking, HIV, heart disease, and ototoxic medications may not be commonly discussed in our clinics or in our outreach to physicians and the general community, but their time has most certainly come.

At the ADA convention in November, we were all able to enjoy featured presentations by our colleagues Curtis Alcock and Dr. Amyn Amlani. Utilizing creativity, humor, and practical advice, they discussed the stark realities around changes in patient expectations, access to hearing devices, PSAPs and overall challenges to the decades-old model of hearing healthcare. Their voices are two of a growing chorus that has raised the issue of better hearing to international awareness.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in two workshops dedicated to engaging professionals, as well as the public, in improving hearing health care for all. The first, a focus group conducted by the Ida Institute, was designed to be a “collaborative process to create a global vision of hearing health care in 2020 by gaining local perspectives and forming local work groups with a common interest to reach our global vision”. This remarkably productive meeting garnered a wide range of ideas and viewpoints that, when combined with similar meetings in Australia, England, and Denmark, will be used to create ready-to-use solutions.

The second, a workshop on Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging, convened by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), brought together a motley crew of organizations, researchers, governmental agencies, individuals, and device manufacturers. Over two days, all perspectives were heard, and productive debate was encouraged. The complete series of unedited IOM workshop presentations is available online, further enhancing the public value of this event. We anticipate that an official workshop summary will be publicly released by the IOM in the near future.

ADA volunteers and staff are hard at work, thoughtfully analyzing our challenges and opportunities, and constructing actionable solutions that can be used immediately in practice. Virtual resources in development include a new website with a slew of online resources, webinars on relevant topics with CE opportunities and off-the-shelf forms that will save you time and money. ADA is also tirelessly advocating for Medicare patient access and professional parity with regard to recognition and reimbursement under Medicare through the 18x18 initiative.

So, my message to you is that while change is (almost) inevitable, you do not have to face it alone. ADA is committed to helping you today and everyday--even if it’s only to tilt the vending machine so that you can keep more of that change in your pocket.