Including family in audiologic rehabilitation benefits all involved.
Infusing principles of family-centered care into my practice has always been a rewarding experience. I work in a busy faculty practice in New York City with a team of 11 audiologists and four location sites throughout Manhattan. I see a full caseload of patients providing rehabilitative services that include hearing aids and assistive technologies. I refer to my services as a counseling approach to rehabilitation and I invite family or friends to accompany patients to every appointment.
It was apparent that inviting family members into the rehabilitation process was a greater benefit than I had ever imagined. It converts, what has been thought of as a hearing aid evaluation into a process of communication enhancement and engagement. Instead of using a patient history form, the use of narrative from the perspective of the patient and their communication partner gives me more information than I can ever obtain from a standard intake. What is the result? The development of a clinical relationship that leads to the creation of shared goals, better outcomes and greater satisfaction for patient, family and clinician.
Try it. Next time you are scheduled for a hearing aid evaluation, ask the patient to bring someone with them to the appointment. When they arrive for their scheduled hearing consultation, go to the waiting room, greet them and welcome them to your practice. Arrange your office, if you can, so that you are seated around a table or in a circle and not merely behind a huge desk. Engage the patient and partner in a discussion about hearing; both successes and challenges. Ask open ended questions, and most important, listen to their answers. Explore their statements and address their feelings and concerns. Put the audiogram away and engage in conversation. Believe me, they already know more about their own hearing loss than the audiogram will tell them.
Don’t worry, it will not take any more time than your traditional techniques, it will just be time used in another way. The outcome however, will be very different. Patients and family will appreciate being listened to by you and will value your input. Creating that therapeutic relationships with be beneficial to all. It is the opportunity for a win-win situation for the patient, the communication partner and the audiologist.
If you would like to read more on why family centered care does not take more time than traditional techniques, here is a recent article in the Hearing Review: Mythbusters Myth No. 1: I Would Like to Do More Counseling But Time Just Won’t Allow for It.