The Opportunities and Risks of eAudiology
By Nicole Klutz, Au.D., Phonak Audiology Manager
Many hearing care providers see eAudiology as a means to help patients overcome distances and restrictions in travel. Features like Remote Support would provide fast and convenient access to services.
However, eAudiology offers both opportunities and risks. It is important that you understand the legal and practical clinical implementation concerns at an early stage. Consider these 10 points.
eAudiology will not be the preferred appointment choice for all patients. Candidacy considerations may include the patient’s comfort level with technology and access to the necessary technological equipment (i.e., smartphone).
Personality also plays an important role. Some patients are keen on the idea of Remote Support appointments. While for others, personal contact at every appointment is a must.
In most cases you will most likely offer patients eAudiology services in their homes. Depending on the environment, the general conditions — technological equipment and maintenance requirements, specific rules and guidelines — may differ.
Which services would you like to offer using eAudiology? Regardless of whether you offer counselling services, remote fine tuning of hearing devices or hearing rehabilitation, you should ensure that you have the appropriate knowledge, the necessary technology and a patient database that are interested in experiencing remote fittings.
Not only is it important to allocate time and resources for eAudiology training and planning sessions, but time and effort may also be required to gain the agreement of patients and their family members, as well as the support of their health professionals, such as their primary care physicians, ear nose and throat doctors, etc.
Get to know more about the legal requirements regarding eAudiology. Check the conditions for liability and your mandatory liability insurance status in this field with the relevant authorities or insurance companies.
Ensure that you are familiar with all regulations regarding mandatory documentation, including the declaration of consent for services rendered via eAudiology.
Find out more about cost reimbursement of eAudiology by the relevant funding agents (if applicable). This will allow you to collect and document the required information, ensuring that you have the documentation required for billing and reimbursement.
Technology and Training
Do you and your team have the required knowledge and are your technical skills adequate for offering eAudiology services? This is a great time to train yourself in using the devices and technology in which you intend to be working with.
A stable, strong audio and/or video signal is an important requirement for the successful use of eAudiology. You should test the internet connection speed and bandwidth requirements in advance to ensure a successful first remote fitting experience with your patient.
Data protection and security
Find out more about current regulations regarding the safe handling of customer information and the most recent legislation concerning data protection and safety (i.e., HIPPA). Services, such as electronic data transfers, may require an adaptation of your usual procedures (e.g., the introduction of data encryption, the use of special user names and passwords, etc.).
Looking to grow your eAudiology knowledge? On Phonak Learning, you will find a 12-session series on eAudiology. The pre-recorded webinars feature guest speakers with the goal of describing eAudiology and providing practical ways to implement learnings within clinical practice.
Nicole Klutz, Au.D., is Manager of Audiology at the Phonak Audiology Research Center (PARC) in Warrenville, IL. In her role, she provides audiological support and professional training to employees and hearing care professionals around the country.