eAudiology is on the rise due to the pandemic which means involving family members in patient care is often just a video call away.
Over the past few years, we have been actively promoting the adoption of a family-centered care (FCC) approach for the management of hearing loss. It all makes sense. There is ample evidence to support the benefit of FCC and audiologists tend to embrace the concept. Responses to FCC publications have been very positive and attendance at seminars during professional meetings on related topics has been outstanding. The word is out and we have been looking forward to an upswing in in FCC service provision. However, it has been slow and for numerous reasons clinicians have had difficulty gaining traction.
Ekberg, Schuetz, Timmer and Hickson (2020) interviewed hearing care staff including clinicians and office employees and found there were numerous barriers to the implementation of FCC. Issues such as lack of knowledge about the principles of FCC and feeling uncomfortable about asking patients to bring someone with them to the appointments were two examples among many. How do we overcome these barriers? How can we get clinicians and office staff to embrace FCC? As we have been tackling these issues, a surprise solution impacted the world; COVID 19.
Remote sessions ideal for gaining traction in FCC
As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, healthcare providers had to rethink the way they provided service. Many audiology clinics were closed entirely and those that were open, were typically seeing only emergency patients. While the concept of telemedicine, or in our case, eAudiology, has been around for many years, most clinicians have been reluctant to offer it as part of their practice. COVID 19 forced the issue and as a result, eAudiology is on the rise. Hearing aid follow-up appointments were being performed using video conferencing. Audiologists were attending on-line instruction on remote support for hearing aids that was being provided by manufacturers and instruments were now being adjusted remotely. Audiologic e-solutions were suddenly afoot. Not only could you meet with your patients on video but you could meet with their families. Out of nowhere, an opportunity to include family members in your patient care was just a video call away.
Including family, from near or far
So now, instead of family accidentally being in the room when a video conference is arranged, invite them to join when the appointment is scheduled. Let your patient know that even if a concerned family or friend does not live in the same home, we can remote them into the hearing care session where ever they are. Once we begin scheduling these sessions more regularly, it will be easier to transition to FCC practices when operation returns to the new normal. In my clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, we returned to full time practice in early May. We now provide on-site visits and continue with remote meetings. It is opening up a new dimension in hearing health care. Just yesterday, right before writing this blog piece, I saw a new patient in my office and invited her son to video conference into the session. Since he lives in Washington DC, he would not otherwise have been able to attend and participate in his mother’s health care. He was a vital part of this hearing aid consultation and both mother and son worked with me to develop her hearing plan. The session was fun, mom was happy to have her son involved and he was grateful for being part of her care. So, while we have all suffered from the COVID pandemic, lets now look for some silver linings. We got over the eAudiology hurdle and let’s take it to the finish line and implement FCC in our practices whether in person, on video, or both.
Ekberg, K., Schuetz, S., Timmer, B., & Hickson, L. (2020). Identifying barriers and facilitators to implementing family-centred care in adult audiology practices: a COM-B interview study exploring staff perspectives. International Journal of Audiology, 59:6, 464-474
To learn more about how to implement eAudiology into your practice, we invite you to the Phonak eAudiology webpage and for a previous blog post by Professor Joseph Montano on the topic of eAudiology and FCC, please click here.