Hearing technology is constantly changing with product updates and upgrades being launched every six to 12 months. Many hearing care providers (HCP) find that as soon as they become comfortable with a product — its technicalities, feature set and how to program it — there is then a new product ready to be fit.
In an effort to stay relevant in offering the newest technology and benefits, HCPs should review their product offering at least once a year — if not twice a year — depending on the technology that is being launched.
And with this ever-changing landscape, many HCPs question how to plan and execute bringing new hearing technology into their practice. With a few strategic tips, you can stay up-to-date on your patients’ hearing device needs while adding value to your practice.
1. Review your current portfolio
Hearing aid technology used to drastically change every two years. However, with the shorter innovation cycles demonstrated by all hearing aid manufacturers, new platforms are being launched closer to every 1 – 1.5 years. This means that the technology you are currently offering may still be considered “new” — as in it is only 1-year old. But, that 1-year-old technology could already be outdated based upon what new product is being brought to market.
It’s always important to review the portfolio of products you offer within your office. In doing so, you can take an analytic look at the age of the products you’re offering by answering these questions:
- Are the product form factors outdated and available in a new, slimmer, esthetically pleasing design?
- Has the technology improved — both minimally and drastically — and does the technology and feature set you’re offering meet the current needs of your patients?
- Does the technology you offer meet the needs of the newer patient demographic you’re trying to attract to you practice?
2. Take time to research
Not every new product launched is going to necessarily be something every HCP wants to offer right away. Take the time to review the new products being offered and ask yourself, “What am I compromising on in my ability to offer my patients the widest selection of technology for their hearing needs if I don’t offer this product or new technology (eventually)?”
Unlike consumer electronics, hearing aids are typically not flying off the shelves and in high demand (in which they sell out in 24 hours upon release). Many HCPs review and educate themselves on the new products coming in hopes that they can offer the product to their patients as soon as they know about its technological features and benefits.
3. Finding the right mix
Many HCPs ask, “How many hearing devices should I offer?” The answer: Only the amount you’re willing to handle. With such a wide variety of hearing aids available — from form factor to technology — HCPs can fall into the bad habit of trying to offer as many of the available hearing aids as they can.
When looking at the balance of current products to new products offered in your portfolio, it is important to remember that you also need to know how to fit all of those products. If you are comfortable and knowledgeable with a wide breadth of technology and software, then go for it! But there’s nothing wrong with being selective of either manufacturer or individual product family, form factors, etc. to ensure that you are comfortable and confident in the products you both offer and successfully fit to your patients.
4. Review your patient base
You always want to reflect on your patient database in regards to:
- the technology your patients are successfully wearing
- the products you feel comfortable fitting
- the new patients coming into your practice and the technology they are asking for
If you have an older product that you are offering, but nobody is demonstrating interest in it, then consider removing it from your product offering and replacing it with a newer, more desirable technology. That’s not to say that you will abandon your patients wearing that product, rather you’re just removing it from the ‘line-up’ of product you offer to new hearing aid wearers.
Also, put yourself in your patient’s shoes: If you were asking for new hearing aid technology and your HCP showed you an older, ’outdated’ technology, would you want to proceed with purchasing a hearing aid if you’re wanting the more advanced hearing aid technology and capabilities?
5. Do your manufacturer research
To be successful in any hearing aid fitting, you should believe in both the manufacturer of that product and the technology itself. You need to identify with the manufacturer’s vision, their values and their goals. You also need to believe and identify with the product they are offering:
- Does it resonate with your audiological beliefs of what a hearing solution should do?
- Does it answer a need that your patients have and have been asking for?
- Is it the product that you, the fitter, have been asking for?
6. Evaluate skill level
All patients are not created equally, and I mean this in the sense that not every patient is going to have the same audiological and technological needs. Some hearing losses may be more in-depth to fit, requiring an expert understanding of the patient’s hearing needs, the type of hearing aid they should be wearing, and how best to program that hearing aid for success.
If a new product is being launched for a specific patient population (e.g.,., power, tinnitus, invisibility), it is important that everyone in the practice is comfortable fitting that product. If not everyone is, you may be able to identify those within the practice who are, allowing them to specialize and tailor their fittings to that specific hearing loss and patient population. Not everyone has to be the expert in the office, but at least someone does!
7. Review go-to-market plan
It doesn’t matter if you offer the latest and greatest hearing aid technology if nobody knows about it. If you don’t take the opportunity to market the solutions you have to offer, then you’re relying solely on the patient to come to you and ask for help, which we know how long that takes.
It is important to share with your patients, current and new, that you are working with a technology that meets their needs and their wants. It is also important to advertise the newest technology you’re offering in the right place.
If you’re offering a brand-new wireless, fully featured hearing aid that blurs the lines and looks more like a hearable rather than a hearing aid, you may not want to take out a 4-page add in the printed newspaper. Perhaps those patients may be more likely to be on social media or digital avenues, and you need to meet them where they are to catch their eye and peak their interest.
8. Understand the learning curve
With the quicker speed to market, don’t feel like you have to be the expert of every new technology. You can’t know it all right away. When a new technology launches, there is a learning curve. Maybe offer it to a few of your patients who you identify as really being the best candidates to try it, and see how it goes. Then offer it more widely once you become comfortable with it.
While newer technology is being offered, it’s important to use caution when turning over your product offering when a new product hits the market. You are the expert in what your patients are experiencing and how they are reacting and performing with the products you currently offer.
It’s a delicate balance of still offering and remaining knowledgeable on the products your current patients are wearing while still remaining agile to incorporate the newer technology to meet the needs of your newer patients.
To learn more about the latest hearing technology offerings from Phonak, click here.