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Cooperating in a high trust relationship with select partners will improve learning opportunities for students, increase the number of new patients for training students and grow bottom line revenue in academic audiology clinics. Let’s look at who those most productive partners are.

Physicians Partners

Primary care (PCP) and other local physicians are often not proficient in matters of hearing health. They don’t realize how little of their questions, advice and recommendations are understood by patients with hearing difficulties. Nor do they have a comprehensive understanding of the importance of hearing health, comorbidities and audiology. You must convince them it is in their interest to know this information and have a trusted hearing health authority on whom to rely. Because you represent the university, you are a natural, objective and trusted source of this information.  Educating PCPs also presents opportunities for Au.D. students to interact with physicians and their staff and improve students’ knowledge and communication skills. You must enter this enlightenment process with the goal of becoming an integral part of your local physicians’ teams. To win regular patient referrals, you must become their trusted partner, their go-to authority on hearing difficulties and their sole referral source.

The University as a Partner

Your university campus presents many opportunities for fruitful partnerships. Have you ever wondered why your university has a vision health plan, but no hearing health plan? It’s because you did not partner with them to create one. Partnering with the university to offer a hearing health plan to faculty, staff and local alumni and their families can help the university differentiate itself from the competition and aid in attracting and retaining employees. It also can benefit the university by forming a stronger bond with local alumni, helping them and their families continue to feel a part of the university. Having the university trust you to provide hearing health care will make your clinic better known throughout campus and beyond, as families join in the plan. Expand established relationships with local alumni to the entire alumni base through university print and website articles featuring successes and unique contributions of the clinic. Raising awareness and obligation in the alumni community can lead to mutually beneficial university fundraising strategies, targeting alumni and other donors and their families with hearing difficulties.

Another method of getting you clinic better known throughout campus is to partner with the university to provide hearing health services for the music school and university band and orchestra members, providing baseline audiograms and annual follow-up audiograms for detecting hearing loss from loud sound exposure. Loud sounds occur in various places throughout campus, and you can partner with the university to quantify and evaluate those high noise environments to assist the university in avoiding lawsuits and damaging people’s hearing. These are also great venues for Au.D. student experience, hearing loss prevention lectures and projects and capstone projects. As you are successful at this, the university administration will come to know you and respond more favorably to your resource requests.

Community Partners

Your local community is also ripe with opportunities for productive partnerships. Nursing homes and senior centers need your knowledge and know-how to communicate effectively with their clients, service clients hearing devices and routinely monitor their hearing changes. Using your university branding and Doctor of Audiology status you can build trust with the site administrators to become the training agent for the staff and the hearing health provider for their clients. Don’t shy away from senior centers where most clients already have hearing aids. Those aids may need replacing or updating. And, there is a less obvious reason to stick with those clients. They may be in their 70s, 80s or 90s but that means that their children are in their 50s, 60s and 70s and when they learn of your professional, medically oriented, trustworthy, nonprofit approach to hearing health, those adult children will demand your services also, and recommend your university clinic to others. Senior centers and nursing homes also provide rich opportunities for Au.D. students to experience and work with senior patients and to learn to educate health workers about dealing with ever-present geriatric communication difficulties and hearing health.

The Public as Partners

Today’s rapid changes in health care, especially hearing health care vicissitudes, present new opportunities to partner with the public, and potential patients, by serving rising new needs and building trust. The public does not understand the importance of hearing health and audiology. Your academic clinic, as steeped in education as it is in patient care, is a natural source of public education about these issues of growing importance. Indeed, one could argue it is your professional and academic responsibility to be that source. Public hearing health and audiology education also provides learning and teaching opportunities for Au.D. students who are assigned public education projects using different media approaches such as lectures and website pages.

With the graying of America comes not only a greater number of people needing hearing health care but also new pathways to obtain that care, pathways that vary from hearing devices sold direct to consumers, to visits to an otolaryngologist. The public needs pathway guidance for their hearing health issues. As a university entity, your clinic has the advantage of authority that comes with being part of an institution of higher education. Using that authority, you should partner with potential patients looking for objective guidance. Distinguish for them hearing issues requiring a medical approach and those lesser issues that can use a direct to consumer technological approach. Faculty and students should use the university website, public lectures, health fairs and other means to guide the public through these tortuous hearing health pathways, and along the way, build public trust and reap new patients with realistic expectations about what your treatments can do.

Because of their university affiliation and nonprofit status, academic audiology clinics have several potential partners to whom they will appeal. Cooperating in high trust relationships with these select partners will improve learning opportunities for students, increase the number of new patients for training students and grow bottom line revenue. Your partnership with Fuel may be your most valuable partnership. It will help you form and manage these other relationships.

If you are interested in increasing your partnerships to achieve the above goals, contact your Fuel regional manager or account manager. If you are not partnering with Fuel as a member yet, contact us today at contact@fuelmedical.com or call (360) 210-5658.

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Author

Don Nielsen

Don joined Fuel as a consultant after retiring from Northwestern University where he was Director, Audiology Clinic and Translational Research. Before that, he was Executive Director, Central Institute for the Deaf; Chairman, Speech and Hearing Department, Washington University; Executive Vice President, Research, House Ear Institute; and Director, Otological Research, Henry Ford Hospital.

Don enjoys using his decades of experience assisting university audiology clinics to grow and prosper in this time of extraordinary change in hearing health care. In his spare time, he plays at landscape photography.

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