We are in a very interesting period of time in our history in hearing healthcare. For decades, the typical interaction between the clinician and patient and patient’s significant others has largely taken place in a bricks and mortar office where all stakeholders are seated just feet from each other. This is how we as hearing care professionals have trained and practiced, and consciously or otherwise, this in-person meeting structure has shaped how we connect with our patients.
The communication has primarily taken place under conditions where we can control environmental factors (noise levels, ambient light, sight lines, etc.) and we can gather rich data from our clients’ nonverbal communication, helping us gauge their mindset, their motivation, and their unspoken concerns, and we can in return use our own nonverbal communication to help us attune to our patients’ needs. The idea that how we communicate influences communication itself was poignantly captured by famed Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who eloquently coined the phrase “the medium is the message”. In other words, the form of a medium (e.g., a face-to-face interaction, a photo, video chat, etc.) embeds itself in any message it conveys and meaningfully contributes to the way in which that message is perceived.
Enter the age of the internet, telemedicine, and eAudiology. Increasingly, interactions with our patients will not solely consist of face-to-face interactions, but will also take place with eAudiology technologies. In my view, this is a good thing because it is rooted in the delivery of care from a family-centred perspective (Singh et al., 2016) whereby healthcare practitioners provide services to patients based on what they need or want. Importantly, many questions will need to be answered.
Technologies (as evidenced by interactions with my home printer) are not 100% reliable. Face-to-face interactions are not susceptible to issues with internet speeds. How does a clinician determine candidature for eAudiology services? Regulatory hurdles and legislative barriers are still an issue in many parts of the world. How does one incorporate eAudiology appointments with the standard workday? Does offering eAudiology service work with the clinic’s business plan? Although there are other questions as well, I’ll finish with this one – how will the medium influence the message?
As eAudiology technologies become more readily available, clinicians will likely have many different experiences. I look forward to hearing their ‘eAudiology’ stories, learning about their successes and failures, and of the lessons learned.
In coming weeks, Dr Singh’s recorded webinar on this same topic will be available on Phonak Learning (accessible in participating countries). For more information, please visit https://learning.phonakpro.com.
Singh, G., Hickson, L., English, K., Scherpiet, S., Lemke, U., Timmer, B., Buerkli-Halevy, O., Montano, J., Preminger, J., Scarinci, N., Saunders, G., Jennings, M.B., Launer, S. (2016). Family-Centered Adult Audiologic Care: A Phonak Position Statement. Hearing Review. 2016;23(4):16.