Hear Ye, Hear Ye
Hear Ye, Hear Ye
Larry E. Patterson, MD
From the Chief Medical Editor
Last summer, I wrote about the looming cuts in our Medicare reimbursement. Those cuts keep looking more likely as our fine politicians attempt to figure out how to fund promises made decades ago that probably no longer can realistically be kept. There are lots more seniors than before, living longer lives, and our ability to treat them is expanding with ever more expensive techniques and drugs. Like the song says, something's gotta give. And give it will. I just don't know when, and I don't know how.
Through the years, I've mentioned revenue-generating ideas to help us prepare so that we aren't caught off guard. I recently considered another concept—hearing services—but wanted to give it a trial run in my own practice before recommending it to you.
We started this in January and it's turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, both for our patients and our practice. We found a top-notch company that specializes in helping you set this up. We made a modest investment in hearing evaluation equipment, turned an unused lane into a hearing center, and hired a hearing instrument specialist. We added a simple 20-second hearing screening as part of our patient workup. If a patient fails the screening, I explain the results and offer a complimentary hearing evaluation.
Ophthalmology practices all over the country have embraced this. But I had my reservations. How would my patients react to it? Would they feel I was merely hawking hearing aids for profit? It turned out they are huge fans. Our patients get bombarded by local newspaper ads and direct mail pieces from the strip mall hearing stores trying to get their business. Patients already know us and trust us to operate in an ethical manner, doing what's in their best interest. And since we have no advertising overhead, they can purchase higher quality hearing devices at a lower cost than elsewhere.
But what business do I have dealing with hearing? How can I oversee something I know little about? Well, I'm not overseeing anything. I've hired a fully licensed and credentialed man with 30 years' experience in that field to oversee and run the program. We also surface and edge lenses, and sell glasses day in and day out, but my opticians will gladly tell you how little I know about the nuts and bolts of opticianry.
Approximately 80% of the patients who have a hearing loss bad enough to benefit from hearing aids have never been diagnosed. As patients get older, they often experience both vision loss and hearing loss. It is perfectly natural to evaluate the functionality of both these senses together, and where possible, offer treatment options. These two senses function inseparably together, and it is supremely logical to address them together.
The payoff to both you and your patients is definitely worth investigating. For years, my postoperative cataract patients have exclaimed, “Hey Doc, my vision's great! If you could just do something about my hearing!” Now, we can.
Ophthamology Management, Issue: October 2011