Teleaudiology – Helping working Moms find that elusive balance?
If you are a mom and an audiologist, like me, you likely spend your days trying to intricately balance the demands of building a business while caring for your family.
For many, their work is a purely financial necessity. While, for others, business/work success provides a certain sense of self-fulfilment while selflessly working at raising happy and fulfilled children.
For most though, it is a complicated mix of “all the above”, with a good dollop of guilt stirred in.
Working Audiology Moms face several challenges:
As a mother, you are essentially working two full-time jobs. This means constant negotiation between meetings, deadlines and work travel and parent meetings, homework and extramural activities.
As my mother once told me, whilst trying to console my feelings of maternal guilt – “The guilt is born with the child and will be present as long as the child is present”.
As a working mom, whether you prioritise work over family or family over work the end result is guilt. One will always take priority while the other takes a back seat.
Not so long ago, raising a family and running a household was the main focus of a mother’s job description. While times have certainly changed, perception may not have filtered through, and social perception may also be part of the game.
For some, you will either work way too much, for others not enough.
Finding the Right Job for You
Looking for a job as a Mom comes with its own unique set of challenges. Some of these challenges may even present themselves right out the gate. Take the interview for example: Who will look after your child while you go for the interview? What if it runs late?
If you are lucky enough to get the job offer, you will then need to consider the location of the practice and salary, then pair these against the logistics of getting your children to and from school. Then there’s the cost of childcare. And that’s just the beginning.
Being a working Mom will mean that you will inevitably miss out on some things. It may be missing out on a promotion because you cannot put in the extra hours required. It may be missing out on your child’s piano recital because you simply can’t get away from the office.
Unfortunately, we may have to come to terms with the fact that chasing the dream of a balanced lifestyle is part of the job.
Instead, we need to look for ways to tailor how we work to make this goal a little more manageable.
So what exactly is tele-audiology?
Tele-audiology involves using a mix of available technologies to provide patient care at a distance. This is especially useful in providing services in rural and hard-to-reach places that would otherwise not have facilities available for patients to access testing or treatment for hearing loss.
Tele-audiology consists of two main methodologies; synchronous or asynchronous.
In synchronous tele-audiology, assessment and intervention are in real-time.
One example is to provide aural rehabilitation through live consultation over Skype. (Google Hangouts, WhatsApp video and Zoom are some alternatives.) Another example is to test patients and retrieve test results in real-time over the internet through a connected audiometer.
Asynchronous tele-audiology involves gathe
ring information obtained from patient tests performed by a suitably trained technician. (Check your local legislation or with medical insurance companies on how they reimburse for telemedicine.) Test results are then sent to you for interpretation and diagnosis. Known as “store and forward” this allows testing to be done using automated boothless audiometry systems like the KUDUwave™ and without you needing to be physically present. Your time could instead be spent on diagnosis, counselling and treatment.
( Again, through Skype or even on the phone)
The main focus of teleaudiology has been on improving hearing healthcare access, bettering the quality of service delivery. But, it may also provide working mothers with a great deal more flexibility and options in terms of achieving their ideal work-home balance.
Because every situation is different these methods can be mixed and matched to suit.
What works for one clinician may not work for the other and the same is true for patients. While very appealing, the synchronous, high-tech, live video approach will rely on a decent internet connection on both ends and may not always be practical.
So, if you keep an open mind you will be able to adjust when needed to find what works best for you.
Read This: The right tools for ehealth in audiology
There are various inherent opportunities in adopting tele-audiology as a model for your practice.
Awareness Creates Demand
The awareness of audiology services has grown globally creating a global demand for audiological services. The increase in awareness and demand is great, but what does this mean for your practice and how can tele-audiology help?
With the increase in demand comes the increase in the need to service the demand. Tele-audiology allows you to reach the target market without them coming to you.
Shortage of Audiologists and Hearing Care Professionals
The future need for audiologists far outweighs the number of hearing care professionals globally and the traditional healthcare system will simply not be able to keep up with the ever growing numbers.
What a great position to be in – a trained audiologist whose profession is in high demand!
By adopting telemedicine methodology in diagnosing and treating patients, you are able to use cost-effective ways to increase the efficiency of providing healthcare services without compromising on the quality of service delivery.
And what better way to differentiate your service offering from OTC offerings which are becoming more prevalent in the United States and other parts of the world.
This is a win-win situation for both you and your patient
Much of the caseload of private practice is made up of elderly clients who often have difficulty getting to and from medical centres. The good news is that our elderly population is becoming increasingly tech-savvy and are more accepting of new technology in hearing testing, diagnosis, counselling and hearing aid fine tuning.
Enter tele-audiology. Now that the elderly are becoming more attuned to the advances in technology, they will be more likely to prefer a home-based option, even if the actual audiologist is not in the physical proximity.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of tele-audiology is that it is versatile. You can build your entire practice around the model or merely incorporate certain features that suit you, your practice and your patients.
So, for example, you could conduct your diagnostic audiometry from your brick and mortar practice face to face with the patient and then provide the follow-up counselling via Skype. You could also opt to run your entire practice virtually from screening to full-blown diagnostic testing and counselling.
According to Bopanna Ballachanda (Adjunct Professor, Texas Tech University), a practice providing comprehensive tele-audiology services could provide the following:
- Video otoscopy
- Hearing screening
- Diagnostic testing including hearing evaluation, tympanometry, ABR, OAE
- Hearing aid fitting, orientation, programming, verification and validation
- Counselling and Aural Rehabilitation programs
- Hearing aid troubleshooting
- Tinnitus evaluation and management.
With the constant demand from consumers for everything to be made easier, quicker, cheaper and more accessible, tele-audiology is going a long way to meeting these needs for both hearing health professionals and patients alike.
Tele-audiology provides improved patient access to medical services but also helps audiologists reach beyond their brick and mortar practices. Tele-audiology will reduce the cost of hearing care to patients and, depending on how it is adopted in a practice, reduce the running costs for many audiologists too.
Telehealth has improved the quality of care for many health care system sectors who historically relied on face to face consultation. Likewise, tele-audiology will have an equally positive effect on patient outcomes and satisfaction for those receiving hearing care intervention.
But perhaps the most important benefit for today’s topic is that tele-audiology may offer a solution for the Mom/audiologist in search of the elusive work-family balance and offer a route for moms to get back into the practice of audiology.
Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash