Kent Collins, Au.D., FAAA, CCC-A
Doctor of Audiology
Director of TeleHearing
Today’s digital hearing aids are far more sophisticated, work much better, and have the highest patient satisfaction rate in history. As hearing aid circuitry is improving by leaps and bounds, very little attention is being paid to the delivery model of where you can purchase them. I had the great opportunity to interview Dr.Kent Collins, Director of TeleHearing at the All American Hearing Network, who created a virtual consultation program he named TeleHear, www.telehear.com. Similar to the ever expanding telemedicine programs where patients can be seen over the internet by a physician, Dr. Collins developed a consultation system where Nationally Known Hearing Aid experts and Doctors can consult directly with patients with hearing loss.
What benefit to the consumer does this bring?
Dr. Collins: “Similar to how the Mayo Clinic uses teams of physicians to diagnose and treat patients, TeleHearing allows our Doctors of Audiology to consult with local providers to best manage patient care. Patients and their family members who have the opportunity to participate in this care delivery model get the benefit of years of combined experience between our providers who specialize in hearing loss and tinnitus treatment. They also receive consultations on the most up-to-date cutting edge technology and benefit from live demonstrations of state-of-the-art hearing aids combined with financial discounts not offered to other patients.”
Do you get patient feedback on why they either like it or don’t?
Dr. Collins: “Absolutely. After the initial awkwardness of communicating with a provider over the TV, patients reported that they loved the interaction and it felt like our Doctors are right in the room sitting next to them throughout the consultation. Patients and their family members enjoy the ability to ask questions directly to our experts who can address their individual needs and customize a treatment plan. They liked that we can work directly with the local provider to optimize fitting prescriptions and follow up care.”
How long does this portion of the selling stage take? (typical appointment time)
Dr. Collins: “Our TeleHearing consults generally last 20 – 30 minutes with the Doctor of Audiology. The Doctor reviews the medical and hearing history as well as the current test results during the consultation. The patient is then counseled on the treatment options that are available and the best rehabilitation plan is chosen.”
What type of patients/prospects do you see?
Dr. Collins: “Our Doctors see all new patients who are scheduled in our clinics. Even if patients are current users of hearing aids, our doctors will consult with them at their first visit to our offices. We also encourage patients who may be frustrated with their current hearing aids or patients who are experiencing repair issues to consult with our TeleHearing experts. Our Doctors have been authorized by the manufacture to offer trade-in incentives on old hearing aids. This can save patients thousands of dollars on new top-of-the-line hearing aids giving them the best treatment solutions we have available.”
Telehearing is not an online retailer where patients can purchase hearing aids and have them shipped directly to their house. Dr. Collins has analyzed the hearing aid market and determined that online internet sites may have low prices but did not result in patient satisfaction. “Quite simply, hearing aids require ongoing maintenance and care” says Dr. Collins “most new users of hearing aids prefer to have approximately 75-80% of their prescriptive levels programmed into their hearing aids. Over the first few weeks as patients acclimate to better hearing, we reprogram their hearing aids until we get their full prescription.” Online hearing aid sites cannot offer this type of reprogramming without inconveniencing their patients by having them mail their hearing aids to some online retailer every time they need an adjustment causing patients to be without their hearing aids for weeks. More importantly, “Hearing changes over time, with our TeleHearing program, we can retest patients hearing annually in a local office and simply reprogram their hearing aids in ten minutes” says Dr. Collins. Again, something online sites cannot do for their patients.
“I modeled TeleHearing to offer our patients great local service with the low cost pricing offered online.”
“I modeled TeleHearing to offer our patients great local service with the low cost pricing offered online. When people are shopping for better hearing, they are not looking for the cheapest hearing aid. Rather, they are searching for the most advanced hearing aid at the lowest price. That is what we are offering at www.telehear.com. More importantly, we follow best practice guidelines and make sure we combine this low pricing with ongoing local follow up care” says Dr. Collins “our happiest patients are those that we see on a regular basis so we can clean, reprogram, and download updates to their hearing aids”.
The future of hearing aid dispensing is changing. www.TeleHear.com is the first and most popular virtual hearing aid consultation program offered.