No Evidence for Hearing Screenings

If you haven’t heard about it yet…here it is from the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Update of the 1996 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation statement on hearing screenings for older adults,

“The USPSTF concluded that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for hearing loss in asymptomatic adults aged 50 years or older.”

This recommendation applies to asymptomatic adults aged 50 years or older. It does not apply to persons seeking evaluation for perceived hearing problems or for cognitive or affective symptoms that may be related to hearing loss. These persons should be assessed for objective hearing impairment and treated when indicated.

You can view this one of two ways…glass half empty or glass half full.

Glass Half Empty

Primary care physicians, already difficult to convince to do just about anything can now point to this recommendation as an additional reason why they aren’t sending you any patients for something as easy and painless as a hearing screening.

Glass Hall Full

Lets get real. You probably have several great primary care doctors who already refer patients to you. My guess is (and this is the important part), they didn’t start sending you patients because the previous Preventative Task Force recommended that they send patients over age 50 for a hearing screening.

In all likelihood you cultivated the relationship through hard work. You made sure to visit their office every so often, that their patients were seen promptly and returned accurate and well written reports quickly.

The sky is not falling because some task force made an ill-advised choice. Take solace in the Statement by Dr. James Pacala, president of the American Geriatrics Society,

“The only detriments associated with hearing tests are “some anxiety” and the unreimbursed medical costs patients incur.” Dr. Pacala said, “He planned to continue offering them (hearing screenings) to patients. “I think we’ve oversold cancer screening, but in this case the harms are minimal to nonexistent, while the potential benefit is clear: When people are outfitted with hearing aids, they hear better.”

Find the Dr. Pacala’s in your medical community and continue to develop your referral sources just like you were doing last week and the week before. I hate be the one to tell you this, but if the USPSTF had gone the other way, your phone still wouldn’t have been ringing off the hook with a bevy of 50+ year old patients referred by their doctors.

Marketing Doctors for Referrals, It Isn’t as Difficult as You Think

Forget everything you’ve read about the best way to market doctors.

Educating doctors about audiology, hearing aids and hearing loss is a nice idea that has little basis in the reality of both you and the doctor’s busy day.

You are marketing the doctor for referrals and that’s ok.  He knows it and you know it.  Marketing should solve a problem.  If your plan is to educate the physician about hearing loss then you are assuming that the doctor lacks the information you’re providing.

We don’t suggest this approach for two reasons.

The assumption if wrong makes you look like an idiot.

The assumption if correct makes the doctor feel like an idiot.

I don’t know about you, but neither outcome works for me.

The problem that you are trying to solve is that you aren’t getting enough patients from the doctor.  (By the way, if you are getting enough patients, then drop off lunch, say thank you and leave them to enjoy their lunch).



How do you get more referrals?

By figuring out what the doctors problems are and providing a solution. (The staff’s problems count too.)

          1. The referral process should be as simple as possible.  Everything the doctor’s office and the patient needs should be located in one envelope.
          2. It’s ok to ask questions.  But they need to be the right questions
            1. Do you refer out for audiology? It’s a good idea to see what the starting point might be.
            2. What do you expect from your referral sources?  They may not have an answer so be ready with an example.  Do you prefer to have reports emailed, faxed or mailed to your office?
            3. Is there something in particular that we should never do?  If they had a hard time coming up with a response to the previous question, trust me they won’t be shy answering this one.
          3. I know I annoyed some of you by stating that educating the physician about hearing loss and hearing aids had no basis in reality.  What , I should have said was education needs to come much later in the relationship.  Once you establish that you are interested in solving problems for the doctor.  He may be open to more.  There is a time and a place for everything.  And the first few visits to any new referal source should be all about them, not you about you.

Marketing referral sources is just like developing any other relationship.  Remember these 3 things and your referral base should flourish!

      1. Someone has to make the first move and typically that’s whoever wants the relationship in the first place. (Doctors aren’t going to just start knocking on your door, you actually have to go to their office.)
      2. Both sides have to get something out of the relationship on an ongoing basis otherwise why should either side bother?  (You get referrals, they get fed.)
      3. You need to make sure the relationship is a priority.  Don’t take it for granted and stop visiting or sending reports or making sure that everything between your offices is problem free or the inevitable will occur and the relationship will end.