According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only 16% of those who need hearing aids are actually using them. While the reasons for that low intake are complex, one of the standout reasons commonly cited by those with untreated hearing loss is the prohibitive cost of hearing aids in general. Could unbundling the costs of hearing aid services be the answer?
The standard approach for providing hearing aid equipment and services is in a “bundled” or system, where all the services connecting to buying, fitting and maintaining a hearing aid are bundled into one cost.
However, according to a 2012 audiology survey conducted by ASHA, an increasing number of audiologists are embracing the method of “unbundling” or “itemizing” these services, billing patients separately for each service as needed.
How does bundling work?
Unbundling hearing aids can be done on a partial basis, or it could be done more completely.
In an example of partial bundling, you could charge a set service fee that includes service costs related to the dispensing of hearing aid, follow-up visits, hearing aid repairs for two years. In this example, bundling is reduced to two years following the purchase of the device. In addition to this shorter-term bundled fee, the patient is also charged the real invoice price of the hearing aid.
A full bundling might include charging an original dispensing fee and then separate fees for each service thereafter.
Why unbundled hearing aids are the future of hearing practices
- It makes the process more transparent for consumers
By explaining rates and services to customers, you can communicate your dedication to upholding absolute the best practices in hearing healthcare. Unbundling also allows us to charge for services appropriately and opens the door to explain what the service is, rather than grouping it all together.
- It allows you to be less of a salesperson
The patient appreciates the importance of the hearing professional more easily when an unbundled method is used. They learn that the listening professional’s expertise and abilities are critical to the success of their hearing loss journey.
It also enables you to distance yourself from a ‘salesmanship’ focus. Patients have more reason to trust your suggestions for hearing aids because they understand that you do not have a financial incentive to recommend one particular device over another.
- Patients only pay for what they use
You can cite the device’s cost in an unbundled model, then explain what goes into fitting a hearing aid to make the device work optimally.
In a bundled price model however, hearing professionals are required to estimate an average number of times a hearing aid patient will need to visit their practice. This is a tall order. Most long-term customers will need fewer changes than new users, for example. It is unreasonable to bill them the same price for services they do not want to use, and to do so increases the overall cost, making the cost of hearing aids unaffordable for some.
With the unbundled service, customers only pay when they really need that service, which means they are much more willing to pay.
- Consumers are more likely to benefit from higher range models
By cutting the price difference between different models of hearing aids, unbundling reduces the hesitation to buy more premium models. With the unbundled model, your clinic’s complete price of non-programmable analog hearing aids is likely to be greater than other audiological methods, whereas the highest-tech products will probably to be more affordable, improving the overall hearing aid experience for the patient.
- In a diversifying market, it helps you stay relevant
You’ll surely be aware of the multitude of Internet-based, wholesale, big-box store and direct-to-consumer hearing aid sales entering the market, and how this has increased competition dramatically.
While many hearing practices are fearful of this shift in the market, we see it differently. It provides you the chance to capitalize on an increasing market, with the chance to improve market share by helping customers who have bought online without the help of a hearing professional. As you know, even the best hearing aids can perform poorly if not fitted properly.
AuDStandard has negotiated exclusive discounts with major hearing aid manufacturers and equipment businesses. Our pricing enables your patients to access the highest quality products a competitive rate. Contact us for more information about how unbundling your hearing aid services could help your business.