Telehealth and Hearing Loss- Tips to Improve the Experience
by Envoy Medical Staff Member, on October 30, 2021
The recent pandemic has had a major impact on the way we access healthcare.
Telehealth, or using digital information and communication technologies (computers and mobile devices) to access health care services remotely allows you to manage your healthcare without having to be there in-person. To put it simply, it enables video or phone appointments between you and your healthcare provider.
Telehealth adoption overall has increased to 17 percent of all outpatient/office visit claims. In a recent study of 2,000 U.S. adults, 42 percent have used telehealth services since the beginning of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
When the federal government declared a public health emergency in early 2020, Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded traditional Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services in order to make it easier for beneficiaries to get medical care and minimize their exposure to coronavirus in health care settings.
There are many medical appointments where one is not required to be there in person, and therefore telehealth can be applied. A few examples include mental health services, health education services, monitoring chronic illnesses, and medication management. Audiologists have offered telehealth (teleaudiology) services to remotely program hearing aids or provide tinnitus counseling and check-ins. In some cases, a satellite office manned by one person can facilitate with an Audiologist at another location interacting through audio-visual conferencing to complete an assessment. A one-manned office cuts down on infection and enables better access in rural areas.
What about Insurance?
Telehealth rules still vary by state so you need to check with your provider. Some regulatory changes that facilitated the use of telehealth have been made permanent, however in most cases it's uncertain what will change.
During the pandemic, HIPPA enabled providers to use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with patients. The convenience of telehealth, potential cost savings, and the improved ability to access care will likely make it a mainstay. Participating in these appointments when you have hearing challenges can be stressful. Below are some tips to set yourself up for success!.
Using Telehealth with Hearing Loss
The benefit of face to face communication without a mask certainly helps, but preparation is key!
1. Determine which device you will use
Choose whether you will use a smartphone, tablet, personal computer or laptop and download the appropriate link (or app) prior to the appointment. This is typically included in the confirmation email. Keep in mind you may need to update your device if it hasn't been updated in a while. While a smartphone is convenient a larger screen will make communication easier so consider a tablet or PC.
2. Make sure devices are charged and connected to the internet
We recommend joining the video appointment a few minutes early to test your settings. It's helpful to turn off notifications so an incoming call or text message won't interrupt your communication.
3. Test the Camera
Allow the camera to open. Are you centered on the screen? Is the lighting good? Is the device on a stand or angled in such a way that you can focus and take notes if needed?
4. Test the Audio
Most platforms will allow you to connect by video and let you choose whether you would like to use the computer audio (not as good usually) or your phone. Using your phone will typically have better sound quality. If you choose to use your phone audio there will be a call in number for you to use which the platform will walk you through.
Using your phone audio will also be helpful if you use Bluetooth for your hearing aids or prefer using other wireless headphones/earbuds. Speakerphone is another option and is helpful if a loved one is participating on the appointment.
5. Are Captions Available?
Depending on the platform used, live-captioning may be available. Zoom offers free captioning but you have to request it. You might want to inquire about this with your provider. Remember you can ask for accommodations at any medical appointment, so don't hesitate to ask. Having someone with you to be your ears can also help.
Meet Esteem Partner Dr. William McFeely, MD
Advocacy: Your Help is Needed!
This month the FDA formally announced the release of their proposed rules for a new category for Over the Counter Hearing Aids. When the rules are finalized, they will allow hearing aids within this category to be sold directly to consumers in stores or online without a medical exam or a fitting by an audiologist. Hearing aids for severe hearing loss or for users under age 18 would remain prescription devices.
While this rule represents progress it does not address the need for insurance coverage.
Envoy Medical Asks You to Urge Your Members of Congress to Support H.R. 1118, the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2021
Click here to request a letter template!