How Audiology Professionals Can Serve Patients Despite Coronavirus Restrictions
AudiologyOnline: Audiology professionals are facing an unprecedented challenge due to Covid-19. What have you been doing to continue providing service to your patients during this time?
Sandi Arcus: Our office closed from March 18 – May 15, providing curbside service for patients by appointment only. We triaged phone calls and provided support via email as well. I’m happy to say that no patient who needed help went without it.
AudiologyOnline: What is your opinion on the effectiveness of telehealth options, and do you think they will continue to be utilized post-lockdown?
Sandi Arcus: We did not use telehealth, as our patients who may have benefited from it did not have the technology required. We were still able to provide them with the service they needed. However, I can see that telehealth is an advantageous option that definitely will have its benefits post-lockdown. We still have high-risk patients who are, understandably, concerned about venturing out, as well as patients who have mobility issues or transportation issues. This would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
AudiologyOnline: Are there any specific apps, software, or online services you can recommend?
Sandi Arcus: Other than manufacturers’ apps, I’ve found myself recommending voice-to-text apps, as well as meditation apps. With masks being the norm, it adds an additional obstruction toward our patients’ hearing and understanding speech. I have a hearing loss and definitely find myself saying “what” more often. This adds to the frustration. That’s where the meditation apps come in. Not only are our patients finding themselves more secluded, but when they go out, even with hearing aids, they can still find themselves “alone,” as they can’t contribute to conversations. The goal of meditation apps is to lessen the anxiety that, quite frankly, most of us are feeling. The talk-to-text encourages interaction and conversation.
AudiologyOnline: Once back in the office, what do you anticipate the “new normal” to be with regards to conducting daily business?
Sandi Arcus: We will be seeing fewer patients to allow for disinfecting in between patients. Our waiting room will be closed with only one patient being seen at a time. We will be asking CDC risk factor questions prior to the appointment. Patients will be required to wear a mask for the appointments. I, as well as my PCC, will be wearing a mask, face shield, and gloves. We will have masks with windows for patients to see our mouths as well. The chairs in my office will be placed at a safe distance. We will be adhering to all of the standards and recommendations to keep our patients and ourselves safe.
AudiologyOnline: What other tips would you like to offer your peers for serving their patients during this pandemic?
Sandi Arcus: When seeing your patients, especially for their first visit after closure, allow them more time. I know it’s tough to do, especially when we have a backlog of patients, and can see fewer in a day. This change is difficult for all of us. Let’s be cognizant that we may be one of the first people that our patients have had the opportunity to interact and “socialize” with. We owe them that time to get comfortable, to feel safe, and to know that they have support.