Last year, I attended an important conference. Members were meeting with legislators to discuss direct access for hearing tests and were eager to rub elbows with the Washington elite. On the first day of the conference, everyone was upbeat.
By day two, the mood had shifted from excited to anxious.
What happened? Two significant developments in the industry that shocked and upset attendees.
The first was the introduction of a new, low-cost hearing aid manufactured by a company that upset the other hearing aid manufacturers at the conference.
Audiologists were furious at the manufacturer of the new device as well. Some of them even walked up to the manufacturer’s booth and yelled at the representative for ruining the profession. I felt bad for the reps, who were just doing their jobs by trying to sell the product, but the outrage spread like wildfire among the audiologists in attendance.
Second, a third-party negotiator had just closed on a huge contract that would lower reimbursements for hearing aid fittings and hearing tests, affecting half of the U.S.
By the end of the conference’s second day, everyone was mad. People were telling me that what I predicted in 2008 was finally here: The Death of Audiology.
Is this true? Is audiology really dying?
In a word, no. Audiology isn’t dying, but it is changing rapidly. Every year, changes in the industry send audiologists into a panic, causing them to pronounce the imminent death of the profession. The year before last, it was consolidation that was killing us; the year before that, it was online hearing aid sales.
Fear of changes like these can be a HUGE distraction. Complaining to manufacturers about consolidation, online hearing aid sales or sales to third-party companies isn’t going to stop the trend.
Instead of running scared, move past the fear and blame to action. If you want to grow your practice, focus on what is working for your practice, and keep up with the changing market. Those who can adapt will survive. Those who can’t are doomed.
Here are five things you can do to adapt to the changing audiology market:
- Focus on your reputation. Collect online reviews from patients and feature them on your practice’s website, on social media platforms and on online reviews sites.
- Market consistently to private-pay patients. Yes, they’re still out there. Some patients prefer to pay for services out of pocket, rather than going through an insurance provider. Market your practice, services and devices to these patients. Private pay provides your practice with better profit margins: less goes to the insurance companies, and more goes to growing your bottom line.
- Use both online and offline marketing channels. Even in today’s Internet-connected society, offline marketing through direct mail, newspaper and TV ads still works—if it’s done effectively. You should also reach out to current and potential patients through your practice’s website, social media networks, email marketing campaigns, organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
- Consider an unbundled model. Charging separately for different services and devices, rather than offering them in bundled packages, can improve your practice’s profit margins.
- Adopt a Growth Mindset. Adopting this mindset can help your practice not just survive, but thrive, in today’s market.
There will always be factors and events in the market that are outside your control. You can control how you react and how you leverage the changes to build your practice.
Instead of worrying about The Death of Audiology, tell yourself, “If I do more than my local and national competitors, I will dominate in my market.”
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