Clinical Practice

What does the future hold for hearing healthcare?

Phonak invested in a two-part seminar series to provide hearing care professionals with insights and perspectives on where the hearing healthcare industry and its patients are heading now and into the future.

In the beginning, COVID-19 felt a bit distant– and perhaps unfathomable or even ‘real’ — until it hit the world with unprecedented impact, quickly becoming very real for every single one of us. Forcing many business owners’ hands to make drastic decisions, the pandemic halted the clinical care that many patients needed and brought businesses to a standstill.

Now, almost 4 months since the swift implementation of stay-at-home orders and the closure of businesses, we are finally seeing a glimmer of normalcy as we start to reopen our clinics, welcoming patients in a whole new way to the office, all while still trying to plan for a future that feels full of uncertainty.

As your partner in business, Phonak closely monitored the state of the hearing healthcare industry and worked to bring you the most relevant, up-to-date information about what was happening, how we could support your business, and how we could help you deliver the best patient care in pandemic times. As a result, Phonak delivered a two-part seminar series in June 2020 packed full of insights surrounding the hearing healthcare industry, the perspective our consumers have on hearing care professionals (HCPs) as providers of essential services, and the trajectory/timeline of how this pandemic might truly play out, and ultimately the steps you need to take to get back to business.

Let’s recap some of the valuable information shared over this two-part series.

Reshaping our future: A fresh perspective on COVID and beyond (Part 1)

In partnership with Boston Consulting Group, the Phonak family came together to take a deeper look at what was happening within the current pandemic and forecasted the long-term ramifications and expectations the next 12-24 months had to offer.

Takeaway #1: Hearing care is an essential business and more resilient than we might have originally perceived it to be. It is time to shift our attention from the economy and focus on the healthcare aspect instead.

The hearing healthcare industry has found itself in a volatile situation before, as far back as the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The past has shown us that hearing healthcare follows the lead of other healthcare fields: While it may be affected, it rebounds swiftly and strongly.

The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. In fact, surveys suggest most of first-time hearing aid wearers seeking a solution for their hearing loss merely ended up delaying their purchase due to COVID-19, leading to pent-up demand for not only hearing aids, but hearing healthcare services. Meaning that – now more than ever – is the time to bring patients back to clinics safely and effectively.

Takeaway #2: Patients are willing and able to come back to see you – if you’re safe and you communicate with them.

Your patients are looking to you to proactively communicate with them before they reschedule a previous appointment or even think about a new patient appointment. In fact, 1 in 4 patients state that they are ready to come back and see their provider as soon as the provider is willing to see them.

But what if they don’t know you’re ready to see them? In addition, when asked what protocols would make patients feel more comfortable returning to the clinic in-person, patients ranked ‘regular staff’, ‘patient health screenings’ and ‘a robust infection & sanitization protocol’ among the top 3 protocols they’d want to know about.

Takeaway #3: Strategy has never been so important than it is now.

When looking to the leaders in other sectors, such as CVS, Whole Foods and Home Depot, we recognized common areas that were proactively addressed. For example, how they communicated internally, what messages they wanted their customers to hear, how they adapted their business models to cater for emerging consumer trends, and what steps they took to ensure their cash flow positions remained as healthy as possible. From those examples, we created a flywheel model that was comprehensive enough to capture the actions needed but simple enough to be actionable and gain momentum upon propulsion.

Reshaping our future: A fresh perspective on COVID and beyond (Part 2)

In the second part of the series, Phonak took a deeper dive into the flywheel concept and helped to deliver an easy-to-follow and actionable strategy to implement in your offices. In addition, the component of leadership was added to the flywheel as the core pillar of the entire office, business and overall success in the businesses’ rebound.

Takeaway #1: Understand the bigger picture of where we are as an economy and what the future looks like as you start to reopen and plan.

Over the onset of the pandemic, three specific phases were identified: Impact, rebound, and the ‘new normal’. During the impact phase (approximately 2-3 months in length) we saw consumers panicking and focusing on stock piling grocery and health items with an uncertain view of the future. This is also where we saw consumers switch to eCommerce for most non-essential buying.

Then, during the rebound phase (12-24 months) of which we are currently in, after an initial surge where pent-up demand is realized, we are starting to see an adaptation to new behaviors where spending increases, but not to pre-crisis levels as consumers adjust to the new economic environment. Finally the ‘new normal’ (upon delivery of vaccine or treatment) is expected to be where consumer spending returns to pre-crisis levels. This phase is not expected before 2021 at the soonest.

Takeaway #2: Leverage the components of the flywheel to be successful in returning to business, even when using a blended approach.

The flywheel highlights the key areas (components) of your business that you want to be looking at – and momentum grows as you establish those areas and build them up. At the core however, remains leadership.

      • Finance & Sales: Cash flow is the single most important financial metric for any business. Using tools, such as a bowling chart approach, helps to ensure you are focused on the areas that really matter. However, don’t overlook some small but powerful changes in your day-to-day appointments, services and overhead that could result in additional health benefit of your practice.
      • Infection control: It is recommended each practice has a dedicated COVID lead to be responsible for not only the opening of the clinic to patients, but the day-to-day and weekly infection control procedures. Phonak has developed both resource tools and services to support you in implementing such a protocol.
      • Service delivery methods: It is important that you understand how you can leverage a range of delivery models to ensure you are meeting your patients, where they are (in-person or remotely), whether they are in high-risk categories for COVID, tech-savvy patients or just regular patients who value convenience.
      • Marketing: Understand how consumer behavior has changed and will continue to change over the next 12-24 months. With examples and ideas for communication – it is important to set the right tone and send the right message to your patients who are wanting to see you for your services. It is also important to review those understanding and learnings to maximize traffic to your business in a consistent and predictable way
      • Leadership: Understanding change management, motivation, and how to execute on providing leadership within the business and clinic will help you to remain agile and ready to respond to whatever comes your way over the next 12-24 months.

Did you miss a session? Don’t worry!

Phonak takes your business and your success very seriously. As we have seen – across the country – rebound and reopening is happening at varies rates and may be largely linked to population density and associated risk factors of another way of COVID cases. We are already seeing numerous states operating beyond their pre-COVID levels, and even some clinics that are setting record months and unusually high-response rates to marketing pieces.

However, it is easy to assume that we’re almost ‘done’ with COVID-19 and that we’ll return to ‘normal’ again. We’d love for that to be the case, but the fact of the matter remains that we still have 12-24 months ahead of us to truly recover from this pandemic and recession – and a lot can happen over that period.

You’re probably already seeing patients who have taken their health care services and journey completely digital – or those who may elect for at some part of their patient journey to be so. It has never been so important for you to rely upon us to support you in the tools and services we have to offer to help you meet your patients’ needs as well as your own business needs.

The hearing healthcare industry will endure COVID-19 and what it has to leave behind – we are resilient – and we will come out on the other side better than before. What is clear Is that those who prove themselves willing to commit to the ‘new normal’ and ride the wave of the rebound phase, will not only thrive during this time, but they will position themselves for the consumers and the new trends that emerge from this pandemic.

Resources

You can find more information on the resource available from Phonak on our COVID-19 Resource page. If you missed either of the 2-part series, recordings and materials are available for download.

Phonak COVID-19 Information hub is here.

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