The ability to offer remote services is not new.
I think it is safe to say, however, that during this past year with the global COVID-19 pandemic, providers and patients alike recognize the need and appreciate the value of remote service options. Even though remote care offers flexibility and improves patient access to services, how patients and providers feel can influence whether they engage in remote services.
Exploring the clinical research
My colleagues and I conducted a scoping review1 to learn more about clinical research that explored implementation of telehealth in audiology. We found research that reported on patient and caregiver perspectives for various types of service, including hearing screening, diagnostic assessment, cochlear implants, hearing aids, and rehabilitation. There were three studies that explored provider perspectives for telehealth services broadly in audiology.
In this review we learned that:
- Patient and caregiver perspectives had one thing in common – a positive perception of remote services.
- Participants identified advantages, such as easier access and being able to get services sooner, and they expressed satisfaction overall.
- Some participants in the cochlear implant studies expressed a preference for in-person appointments.
- Provider perspectives were positive overall; however, not all the providers were offering remote services and did not have direct experience.
Patient and provider hesitancy can get in the way of optimizing service access. Feeling hesitant about something different or new to you is understandable. Both patients and providers are accustomed to having in-person appointments, it is comfortable, and we know how that works.
Remote services are different and can raise questions, such as: Will I be able to really communicate my thoughts and needs? Will remote services be as good as in-person? Can I manage the technical aspect? Oftentimes, these uncertainties will resolve with practice and exposure, but taking the first step can be hard.
What you can do
Adding remote service options to your practice requires you, your office staff, and your patients to change behaviors. Even when benefits are recognized and valued, taking those steps needed to implement change can be elusive.
The following are a few resources that can help you take stock of your practice and get you on the path to offering remote services:
- eAudiology resources offered by Phonak (include e-learning courses, patient tools and a guide to help you select and prepare patients)
- Timely diagnosis and follow-up: A resource guide supporting tele-audiology offered by the National Technical Resource Center for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention
- Telepractice resources offered by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (located in the Practice Portal)
If you would like to read Dr. Muñoz’s full article in the Connected Health supplement in the International Journal of Audiology, you can access it here. The supplement, sponsored by Phonak, is open access for all.
- Muñoz, K., Nagaraj, N., & Nichols, N. (2021). Applied tele-audiology research in clinical practice during the past decade: A scoping review. International Journal of Audiology, 60(S1), S4-S12. DOI: 1080/14992027.2020.1817994