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What is “quality”?

Quality can be defined as: “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind or the degree of excellence of something.  Quality can cover both ends of the spectrum.  We’ll take a leap of faith and assume you’ve chosen to provide your patients with superior quality.

Why is it more critical now?

We become complacent; it’s human nature.  In our personal space, there is a degree of disorder that we are willing to accept when it’s just “us.”  But if “company” is coming over suddenly that degree of chaos is no longer acceptable. Too often we treat our patients more like one of “us” and less like the “company” they are.

In this industry, the product is fixed.  Vendor XYZ hearing aid, Model ABC is the same no matter where it’s purchased.  Unfortunately, price points for the product vary widely. Your customer can now shop for the product in so many different ways that it can be a bit overwhelming. You have to provide a measure of quality that makes it clear that there is value to purchasing the product from you. If you don’t give your patient a way to wade through the confusion, they’ll default to price every single time.  Given no other qualifiers, price is a tangible, measurable way to compare Store A with Store B.

How do you deliver quality?

The product is a given, so how does your office deliver quality?  Let’s start with the obvious, would someone visiting your office for the first time want to return and tell everyone they know what a great experience the visit was?

Is your office patient friendly?

Wendy Leebov, partner at Language of Caring reports that the following five patient needs are necessary to create an environment conducive to providing a quality patient experience.

  1. Wayfinding: Patients are stressed when they have a problem finding or making their way to your offices. Maps, transportation options, convenient parking, graphics, and signs are all important to consider to remove impediments and reduce unsettling confusion.
  2. Physical Comfort: Chairs, lighting, room arrangements, furniture design, assistive devices and railings, smells, colors, textures, and noise all influence the patient’s comfort level.
  3. Privacy and Personal Territory: People appreciate the ability to control the extent to which they interact with other people. The optimal environment caters to people with different preferences.
  4. Peace and the Absence of Noise: The Devil’s Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce) defines noise as “a stench in the ear.”Unwanted noise increases people’s perception of pain.  Noise interferes with relaxation and often leads to irritability and anxiety.  In their doctor’s office and other ambulatory care settings, people expect peace and quiet.
  5. Sense of Security: People want to feel protected, protected from slips, slides, and falls, confident that the equipment will hold them, and so safe that they can let go of watchfulness and close their eyes.

Patient-friendly office policies

Offices that provide quality service have policies that reflect their desire to deliver a quality experience.

  • Do you offer appointment times that are outside of 9:00 to 5:00?
  • Do you offer walk-in hours for quick repairs?  You’ve convinced patients that they need to hear better.  Turning around and telling them that they need to wait a week to be able to hear once again is counterproductive.
  • Are your wait times short?
  • How does your staff sound when they answer the phone.  Are they consciously aware that the person on the other end of the phone might have a hearing loss?

Understanding the needs of your demographic

Your demographic is older, less mobile and possibly larger (as we age we pack on pounds) than other demographics. It should go without saying that your office needs to be “senior friendly”.  But I’ve been in many waiting rooms frequented by seniors that were clearly designed by someone more interested in the aesthetics of the room than the usability.  The issues mentioned above are the tip of the iceberg.

9 Improvements you can make in your office

  • Will your waiting room chairs accommodate oversized individuals?
  • Are the waiting room chairs easy to enter and exit? Comfy chairs can often be a nightmare for individuals with mobility issues or upper extremity weakness to exit.
  • Will your sound suite accommodate an oversized individual?
  • Do you have floor areas that might be a slipping or tripping hazard? Area rugs, large expanses of smooth tile or odd changes in floor elevation can all be problematic.
  • Not all seniors require handicapped parking, but they also don’t want to have to park two blocks from your office.
  • Do your office hours accommodate seniors who need an adult child to drive them to the office? Or will their driver be required to take off from work to bring them to the office every time they need to visit your office?
  • Is there space in your waiting room for a wheelchair?
  • Are there grab bars in your restrooms?
  • Is the signage indicating the location of your suite large enough to read at a distance and clearly pointing the way to your office?

The criteria customers use to evaluate when making a purchase is rarely just the price point of a product. The decision includes an assessment of store location, convenience, hours, helpfulness of the staff, office policies, and many more mundane but critical details. Each patient weighs each criterion a little differently (creating niches for you to exploit possibly), but in the end, only one store gets the sale. Success in retail doesn’t mean doing it well; it means doing it best.