By: Dr James Fielding, co-founder and CEO of Audeara
The last few years have brought a lot of change to the healthcare industry. While this pandemic has created a lot of anxiety, it’s also helped people and businesses to see the changes as a chance to improve and try things they haven’t previously had the ability to.
These changes have proven that the government can in fact be nimble, that change can happen quickly and the show can go on. We’re fortunate in the health industry, especially in this country, that there is a consistent commitment to providing health service to the members of our community. As an organisation, that meets an unmet need you will always have opportunity, it’s about finding the right ones to make a difference.
The biggest shift we’ve seen is in the unshackling of traditional health services and the improvement in telehealth offerings. As people have been forced to spend more time at home and limit their outings, it’s made sense to bring health services to their home where safe. We’re realising the benefit of providing care by video or phone call. Previously, the view might have this is a back stop that “something is better than nothing” but I think, as the pandemic goes one, we’re starting to see that this new way can be just as good as the old way, or in some cases, even better.
Other industries have seen this too. Restaurants pre-package delicious food for home delivery, bars pre-package extravagant cocktails for home delivery. The offering isn’t lesser, it’s just different. It’s the same quality, just packaged differently, enjoyed far more conveniently, and provides additional work for the delivery system. Overall, it seems like a big value add.
In our industry of hearing health, this has meant the opportunity to reconsider how we can help people. With lower client numbers in clinics, time that is usually devoted to the consistent filling of appointments and servicing clients can now be dedicated to reviewing how we serve communities.
Thriving in this environment means looking at the long list of people stuck at home, thinking about their needs and how best to meet them. What are they doing now more than ever and what do we offer that can help them? What could we offer to help them that we don’t already? What else has changed in the industry that creates opportunity?
At Audeara, we shifted our service to focus on supporting clinics offering remote or telehealth services. This increased manual handling as we provided clinics with a value add by coordinating shipping for products direct to clients on behalf of the clinic. Our automated systems had to become more manual, we offered to tailor devices to client’s needs prior to shipping, to set them up and connect them the way the clinic would have done previously. We took the time to understand the service that was being offered by the clinic and we became part of their team. We picked up the slack to ensure everyone was receiving quality care at the time they needed it, our customers and our customers’ customers. It paid off.
The Department of Veterans Affairs adjusted fitting guidelines to allow for telehealth, trusting highly trained professionals to act in the best interest of their clients. This created an opportunity to expand remote services but wasn’t something clinics focused a lot of time on. We were perfectly positioned to teach them and help them reach a wider community of those in need. It might not be how things were usually done, but it became clear it was a better way to operate. You help more people in less time, in a way that they appreciate, a way they’ll remember. Taking advantage of opportunities like this creates a perfect recipe for growth in what is a tough time for businesses.
We’ve loved stepping up and helping clinics and clients, but it’s important to note that if we didn’t pivot to take advantage of these opportunities we would have been in a tough spot, like many other Australian businesses. We’re part of this industry, their pain is our pain, their opportunity is our opportunity. Clinics may not have been positioned to pivot quickly, but we were. We had the advantage of being able to take a step back while they were rushing around on the front lines. We had the capacity to review changing legislation, discuss with stakeholders, work remotely, implement systems that we designed ourselves to meet the needs of our changing environment.
This pandemic has taught companies like us that it’s ok, and important, to step up. We’ve changed how we do business now, learnt a lot in the process and continued to help customers and clinics alike. As we look at an uncertain future, we urge other providers to do the same. What can you be doing better? How can you help more? Is there a process or system you’re still following that can be updated, providing a better outcome for everyone involved? Now is the time to have these discussions.
The health industry is incredibly, and often justifiably, covered in red tape. Change isn’t really the point. The point is consistent and high-quality service provision. It took a global shakeup to help the industry realise what needs to stay the same and what’s safe (and better) to bring into the 21st century. Remember, if you want the rising tide to lift you, you have to be in a boat, sitting on the bottom is going to get pretty tough.