President's Message: Looking Forward to a Return to Normalcy

Author: Victor Bray, Au.D.

I would like to begin by thanking Dr. Debra Abel, ADA’s immediate past president, for her outstanding leadership of the Academy during a most difficult year. Entering 2020 with a great plan for a ‘normal’ year, she was inspiring in helping us to adapt the massive disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overcoming the challenges thrown to us, she led a communication reorientation to provide our members valuable guidance for the necessary clinical responses in modified patient care to support private audiology practices. In addition, she helped deliver a successful virtual, international AuDacity 2020 meeting. Thank you, Dr. Abel!

Looking forward, as our massive, national vaccination campaign is underway, one can only hope to a return to normalcy sometime in 2021. As this occurs, ADA would like to return to a focus on our Strategic Plan that incorporates the five pillars of Advocacy, Autonomy, Community, Quality, and Sustainability. While each of these pillars has multiple elements, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight one item in each pillar for the coming year.

Advocacy is focused on passage of the Medicare Audiology Access and Services Act (MAASA), first introduced in the 2019 legislative cycle. ADA, AAA, and ASHA have renewed their cooperation agreement to advance MAASA legislation in the 2021 legislative cycle. This will (a) reclassify audiologists from “supplier” to “practitioner” status in Medicare, (b) support Medicare recipients with direct access to audiology services, and (c) expand coverage for all Medicare-covered diagnostic and therapeutic services that correspond to audiology’s scope of practice. Work is already underway in Washington DC to solidify MAASA sponsors and co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. In support of this national work, and necessary state-level work, I would like to welcome Dr. Alicia Spoor as the incoming Chair of the ADA Advocacy Steering Committee.

Under Autonomy, I’d like to highlight our efforts to recruit and support Early Career Professionals (ECPs). ADA offers a variety of resources for ECPs, those individuals who are within seven years post-graduation or new to private practice ownership. The ECP Special Interest Group meets monthly to share knowledge, information, and ideas without fear of scrutiny or condescension which may come from inquiries and discussions through audiology social media outlets and other channels where more seasoned professionals reside. To participate in the ECP, membership in ADA is encouraged, but not required. If you would like to join the ECP group, or recommend someone to the ECP group, contact may be made at info@audiologist.org.

Within the Community pillar, the ADA Mastermind Program supports small-group, peer-to-peer mentoring to facilitate discussions and problem solving. Each Mastermind group consists of 8 – 12 non-competing audiologists (ADA membership required) to operate with complete autonomy in a private and confidential environment. ADA staff are available to contact for technical troubleshooting, if needed, but will not participate in the meetings. If you are interested in more information on the Mastermind Program or want to be included in the next group that forms, you may contact info@audiologist.org.

The Audiology Practice Accreditation Program (APAP) lives within the Quality pillar. The purpose of the APAP is to recognize clinics that meet or exceed national standards, exemplifying best clinical and business practices in the delivery of audiologic care. The APAP will measure clinical processes and procedures against a set of peer-reviewed, evidence-based standards. These ADA-accredited practices will demonstrate a commitment to patient-centered care, transparency, and adherence to clinical and ethical guidelines by leading national organizations and institutions. Our current activities include the training of the auditors and incorporation of virtual interactions until we can return to face-to-face operations. Audiology Practice Accreditation is an open-access process for both ADA members and nonmembers. To participate in the APAP process, or to recommend someone as either an auditor or a clinical site to be evaluated, you may contact Stephanie Czuhajewski at sczuhajewski@audiologist.org.

The fifth pillar is Sustainability and I’d like to highlight ADA’s vast reimbursement resources. Audiology practices are experiencing changes in service delivery and patient access that are being driven by managed care. ADA members have access to reimbursement expertise through Audiology Resources as a member benefit. A cache of reimbursement and practice management resources are also available on the ADA website at www.audiologist.org. These resources are updated regularly, so check back often. ADA has also established a working group to research and analyze the changing managed care landscape, the implications for audiology practices, and considerations for audiologists. The Working Group is on path to release a comprehensive report later this year which will include important information and recommendations for audiologists, consumers, and policymakers.

The new year of 2021 is underway and I urge you to reach out, connect, communicate, and collaborate with fellow members utilizing the Academy’s support systems: the Student Academy of Doctors of Audiology (SADA) for AuD program participants, the ECP Special Interest Group for young professionals, and Mastermind program for the seasoned professionals. As we move together through the transitions of the coming year, I send you best wishes for an end to the pandemic and associated restrictions, for good health to you and your families, and for a successful year for your practices in continuation of the outstanding care you provide to the patients you serve.