Telehealth and Hearing

Dale Johnson:
Healthy hearing on our minds every Saturday morning on KFOR with Dr. Sandra Miller of Complete Hearing in Lincoln. When we’re through today, you can go to complete-hearing.com for ways to stay connected to Complete Hearing through curbside pickup, drop-off boxes, free shipping, still answering questions and providing service. Just a different look coming in a different form these days. Dr. Sandra Miller joins me on The Conversation Starts Here. Dr. Miller, thank you very much.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Good morning, Dale.

Dale Johnson:
I just mentioned a few of the changes, the ways that Complete Hearing is shifting in these times to continue to provide service. Somewhat of an exciting time because when we flip the calendar over to May, which we have done now the first weekend of May, this opens up some possibilities.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
It really does. We’re excited to be in a state that has been so proactive with coronavirus in terms of keeping on top of things and making great recommendations. Last week the governor was wonderful to say, “You know, we’re going to open this back up for elective surgeries” and they’re allowing dentistry to go forward in optometry, and audiology falls in that realm as well in terms of starting to see patients again. So for us, we are excited on Monday to start seeing patients in our clinic again.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
However, it’s going to look a little bit different. So, as we process through what we talk about today in terms of telehealth, we’re going to talk about what our lobby’s going to look like and what the approach is going to be as we move forward. But I thought today would be a great time to talk about telehealth because some people know what this word means and some people don’t. And then maybe talk through the pros and cons of, now that we’ve been doing some of this, what does it mean? And I want to give you an idea of what it means from an audiology perspective.

Dale Johnson:
Telehealth is of course another service provided by Complete Hearing and you have experienced telehealth lately.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
We have. When this became a kind of, we’d done telehealth in the past and would describe to your listeners what we described telehealth as is we’re either on the phone and for us it’s become, we’re video chatting with many of our patients in terms of they’re having an issue. We can do some programming, downloading some settings, and recently we even did a fitting over the, so that we can see each other and do a fitting of hearing AIDS, which I’ll tell you it was great, but also challenging. So I think many of the pros of having telehealth is there’s just such great access.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
I can’t imagine a time where we would have coronavirus in the past, and what would you do back then. We didn’t have telehealth back then. We couldn’t call our doctor and we couldn’t have a conversation, now we have this video capability, which is amazing. So the access part of this I think is so great. I don’t know, Dale, if you’ve ever used telehealth in terms of a video with your doctor. Have you ever done that?

Dale Johnson:
I never have yet.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
I had a style in my eye one time and I was like, “I don’t want to go in for this, but I have an insurance company that allows me to telehealth.” And so we just Zoomed, and he looked at my eye and it was, I’m like, “This is the coolest thing.” And I thought, and not only do I have access, but I’m not going into a doctor’s office where I potentially would have to wait longer. The convenience factor for me was wonderful and then it cost me a lot less money as well. So I’m not incurring an office visit where telehealth gives those not only accessibility but convenience. And then it was so much more economical for me to do that as well.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
So in regards to audiology, what we’ve found that we have found the pros to be is it’s easy. Some of our patients don’t have the capability of getting out and about. It might be mobility issues, transportation issues. It might be they aren’t feeling well and they want to stay home, but they still need some assistance. And so the pros to this has simply been we can access people, and they can access us in a very convenient manner.

Dale Johnson:
In your practice, thank goodness camera quality has improved because that will be so challenging for you to be adjusting verbally over a camera with a client and not be able to see clearly the device or see what the client is doing as a result of your instructions.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Exactly. So what’s interesting with they’ll find is when our patients are describing to us something over the phone, and I’m trying to describe something back to them and we’re not describing the same thing, it becomes challenging. And so what we have found a definite pro to this part of telehealth where we get to see each other is we can actually point to the pieces we’re talking about, and we can actually do a one-on-one visual with each other. It makes it so much easier to learn that way. S

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
o including with telehealth, what we’ve done is this week we really produced some videos in our office that you can, now we have a YouTube channel and you can just go on and the common questions you might have about use and maintenance and how to use the phone and how to clean the hearing aid, we’ve produced videos for that so it’s easily accessible to you that way as well.

Dale Johnson:
I can only imagine. I haven’t had much luck trying to describe to a plumber what I need under my sink, let alone a device that is about as big as the tip of my finger, trying to describe that. So the one advantage, there are many of telehealth and there are some cons admittedly, but you’ve mentioned access. You’ve mentioned cost savings because insurance companies, you mentioned it in passing, but insurance companies do cover telehealth. Many of them do.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Yes, many of them do. And what we find it will depend on the insurance company. It’s different with audiology. I would tell you a lot of times we are just doing this as a service to our patients. Telehealth is not covered with Medicare for audiology, and we’re hoping to get that change, but a lot of times we’re just simply doing this just as a service to our patients. We need to get them access and get them served, and so a lot of times we’re just doing this as part of their care plan or just because we need to make sure that we take care of them.

Dale Johnson:
One of the disadvantages admittedly is that some things just need to be done in person. As technology is great as it is, there are just some things that a person needs to do in front of another person and that can still be done, especially now that we flip the calendar over to May and restrictions have been loosened somewhat. Sometimes it just gets to that point, Dr. Miller.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Tt definitely does. I actually did a fitting during this time when I did a telehealth fitting. So the hearing aids were sent to my patient and she was a young lady, but I found the fact that I could not look in her ear, see how the piece was fitting. The stem over her ear was a little bit long. I couldn’t access her to say, “Hold on, let me switch that out for you.” So it was much more cumbersome and the fact that I couldn’t see inside her ear was a challenge for me. And then she was young. But imagine the fact that some people don’t even have the access to be able to do telehealth.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
So I was thinking to myself, “If somebody ordered a hearing aid online, how are they fitting this? And then when they try to get support or even what kind of support are they going to get?” So I really was missing the fact that I couldn’t see her in terms of in the office so I told her, “This is how we’re going to start. And when our doors are back open, you get to come in and we’re going to go through the things that I see visually that I think need to be addressed hands-on by you, by me, excuse me.” So I would need to make sure that the length of the receiver was correct and the fit inside her ear was correct, and some of those things were very difficult to do via telehealth.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
I thought it was really interesting too that we were having telehealth over our phone, and then I wanted to show her how to pair her hearing aids to her phone and so I can’t do that because we’re on the phone. And I said, “Hey, can you have go to your computer and Zoom me or could you get an iPad?” And she had the capability of having access to all of those pieces of technology where many of our patients do not. So there were some wonderful things that happened when I fit her, but there was some limitations I could see with other patients who don’t have this access.

Dale Johnson:
Now patients that are currently in your practice, would have an advantage over those who are coming to you for the very first time, because in that case, in that scenario you would need to see that person in person.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Yeah, exactly. So I think it was a nice way to be able to provide a service, but would I tell you it was the best way to provide service? I’d rather be seeing you, and now that we have, like you said, I love what you said, we flipped the calendar and we’re going to slowly move into this transition of seeing patients in our office again. So what I would tell you what’s happening at Complete Hearing is we’re going to keep our lobby door closed and you are going to call when you get to the office, and then we’re going to be screening you when you come in. You are going to get a temperature taken when you come in. We’re going to ask that you do wear a mask because we are still in a situation where this is still happening in our state and we want to take the best care that we possibly can and then we are staggering our appointments, so you will likely be the only person in the office of one or two people. We’re not going to have a huge waiting room full of people, so your interactions in social distancing are going to be very dominantly noticed in our office when you come back in for an appointment, so we’re taking every measure we possibly can.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Our staff is actually switching to wearing medical scrubs because we want to make sure we take every precaution we possibly can. So we are preparing for the re-opening is what I’m going to call it, and again mentioning that we’re not going to have our traditional walk-in hour that we’ve had before. We’re going to make sure that we still have drop-off and we’re going to have pickup. We’re still going to try to limit things and slowly get ourselves back into this. We’re not just going to open our doors and start going like we did before. We want to make sure we take every precaution we can to keep everyone safe.

Dale Johnson:
Tough in your profession to exercise this six foot social distancing. You really can’t examine an ear canal, can you Dr. Miller, six feet away? No.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
You really can’t. For us, that social distancing, what that means within our clinic is that we’re keeping you away from other people in terms of patients, or keeping you at a distance from staff that doesn’t need to have interaction with you in terms of touching you. So of course, yes, I still have to look into people’s ears, but we are using great sanitation purposes. We are wearing gloves, masks, hand washing, we have face shields. We have stopped up our PPE to be ready to service our patients the best way we can and the most safe way we can. We are a medical practice and we want to function that way in every aspect we possibly can in making sure again that we keep our patients safe.

Dale Johnson:
Right, and I don’t want all of that or any of that to be lost on our listeners, that you’re taking these extra steps, not only for the safety of your staff but for the safety of your clients and every single one of them are special, but now when they walk in, they’re the only one in the entire place. So, so there’s an even added level of specialty going on there.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Yeah, and I think I was talking with some of my staff this week and we were talking about there are people who feel, regardless of how you feel about the coronavirus and the steps that have been taken, we do work with a population that is at risk. They’re more elderly, they may have other complications going on, and so that’s why we are definitely taking more of those steps to make sure from top to bottom, regardless of age, health condition, we want to treat everyone the same and making sure we’re taking every step with every patient. But just knowing our demographic, it just takes us to that next level.

Dale Johnson:
If you missed something in this conversation today, you can catch up, complete-hearing.com. Stay connected with Complete Hearing that way and also take advantage of telehealth. Does that start with a phone number? I admit I’ve never gone through telehealth. It starts with a phone number, Dr. Miller?

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
The best way, we actually have one of our audiologists set to do telehealth, so you can either email us through the [email protected] You can call our phone number (402) 489-4418 and Kim will get you on the schedule for telehealth so it’s us reaching back out to you. And so we actually had said it’s like having an appointment in our office, but we’re doing it over telehealth instead.

Dale Johnson:
Every Saturday morning, The Conversation Starts Here with Dr. Sandra Miller of Complete Hearing. Thanks Dr. Miller. Have a good weekend.

Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.:
Thank you, Dale. You as well.

Scroll to Top
X