A 125% increase in patient referrals and patient satisfaction scores of 98%* have been achieved by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust over the past year via a proactive approach to marketing its audiology services.
Time and cost savings within the department have also been gained by utilising specialist audiology workflow equipment and streamlining processes and resources.
At the end of 2010 the department was on average fitting 200 hearing instruments a month. Today it averages 450 per month as patients vote with their feet and select the East Kent NHS services for their audiology care. A sustained year of promotion via marketing support from Siemens Hearing Instruments has involved the development of marketing materials and communication strategies. Leadership within the Audiology Department has also created a commercially savvy culture where the team of 15 audiologists and 7 assistant technical officers understand the pressures of bringing patients in and providing a good experience. This has resulted in the proactive and regular delivery of marketing leaflets across the wide geographic area to community events such as WI meetings and GP Practices. Furthermore, a strong network of audiology volunteers has been developed to resource drop in clinics for hearing instrument re-tubing and battery replacements in libraries, church halls and nursing homes.
Tightening up working practices and resource restructuring have also delivered time and cost savings internally at the 10 audiology sites located at hospital, community and GP Practices managed by Audiology Services at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust. This includes changing the structure of the team and introducing specialist areas to band 6 audiologists, keeping people focused on learning what they are interested in, making the most of CPD, and enabling the sharing of knowledge to band 5 audiologists through a mentor programme.
Close relationship working with the key audiology equipment manufacturer also keeps knowledge and training on clinical, technical and business topics high in the department with a representative regularly attending the department meetings. Additionally, the stock control process has been re-organised to achieve cost savings with one person now responsible for ordering across all the sites.
Regular audits are conducted and minimum and maximum stock level target have been set. The department is also gaining cost savings by making full use of Siemens’ reconditioning service when spare instruments are needed. The use of a specialist audiology application ‘AutoFit’ for measuring Real Ear Measurements (REMs) during the hearing instrument fitting process has helped shave off 30 minutes from each appointment, reducing to 45 minutes. This gives the audiologist more time to counsel the patient during the appointment or schedule in more sessions during the working day.
The cost equivalent of time saved each day by undertaking automated REMs has been calculated as approximately £10,000 per year, per audiologist.
“The marketing initiative and guidance we receive from Siemens gives us confidence to thrive in the current health environment, but we are not complacent. At present we are a big fish in the audiology pond in our area but this could change as other private providers come in to offer similar services,” states Tina Beckham, Audiology Service Manager at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust. “We keep our feet on the ground and work hard to ensure we deliver solid and quality services that meet the needs of our patients and create a positive reputation.”
Tina continues, “We focus on patient choice, access and quality to feel fit for the future. It has taken us two and a half years to ramp up our department and marketing efforts but we are now competitively placed in our region. We have increased patient referrals by 125% and achieved 98% satisfaction rates. My advice to other audiology departments that are not yet this far down their service promotion pathway is work steadily but quickly as the environment is changing.”
“East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust is a blueprint for other NHS Trusts to follow in terms of gaining tangible time and cost savings for its audiology department via process and resource enhancements,” states Mark Laben, Product & Marketing Manager at Siemens Hearing Instruments. “The reputation of audiology services and patient choice is of paramount importance in these current times. Technology innovations and commercial knowledge can set providers apart.”