GSI Hearing for A Purpose
AudiologyOnline: Please tell us a little about how you got involved with a humanitarian hearing healthcare program.
Quin Card: We provide humanitarian support to the Dominican Republic (DR) annually. It started as a group of friends from the same AuD program who had the opportunity to participate in humanitarian audiology trips. After graduating, several of us wanted to continue to have that opportunity, so when Joe Dansie, AuD, spearheaded the project, many of us were eager to be involved! The vision was to establish a sustainable clinic in a rural area in the DR, that eventually would not need our help to function. If successful, we could use that model to start more clinics in other locations. We were also able to team up with an established non-profit organization that helps provide ongoing services.
AudiologyOnline: How have your humanitarian efforts impacted the way you think about audiology?
Quin Card: I knew that humanitarian work was fulfilling from my time in college, so I was anxious to be a part of the group from the beginning. I’ve now been able to travel to the DR on six occasions, and, along the way, we’ve been able to establish a clinic, that is currently open one day a week to anyone who needs hearing testing or hearing aid services. This humanitarian work has been very important to me because it reminds me why I was drawn to audiology in the first place. It forces me to go back to the basics, think out of the box when not every tool is at my fingertips, and just feel like I’m taking part in something that is helping people.
AudiologyOnline: What challenges have you met along the way and have you been able to overcome them?
Quin Card: There have been quite a few challenges along the way: a major one of which was Covid. The global lockdowns prevented us from visiting for a couple of years. Another challenge is trying to find the balance of providing services to those in need without stepping on the toes of the few hearing care specialists in the country. These established professionals depend on providing services for their living but are unable to reach all of the citizens who need hearing healthcare. It requires being sensitive and learning how those two worlds can work together.
AudiologyOnline: What about the sustainability of your clinic?
Quin Card: I think this is the ultimate challenge for all humanitarian trips. We go to the DR for a week and provide wonderful services, but then we leave for an entire year. If a clinic is not sustainable, it’s essentially like starting over and re-establishing our goals every time we go. It is critical for our work to progress when we aren’t there.
AudiologyOnline: How do you accomplish this?
Quin Card: Well, it’s been a process. First, we started building relationships within the country that would allow us to grow responsibly and achieve our long-term goals. Second, we became an official 501c3 which allowed us to collect more funds to grow. We collect monetary donations as well as hearing aid and equipment donations to build our clinic. Once we established our connection with the other nonprofit, we were able to work with one of their staff who was interested in becoming a hearing healthcare provider. He is in training, and the ultimate goal is that he will provide more diagnostic testing. Currently, he opens the clinic one day a week to perform basic repairs and troubleshooting for our current hearing aid patients. His team also travels to rural areas in the DR to service hearing aids for patients who are unable to get to the clinic. We recently installed a booth with a clinical audiometer and we are ready to implement teleaudiology.
AudiologyOnline: Amazing. Tell me more about the teleaudiology!
Quin Card: Most of the time, people think of teleaudiology as a video conference, but we are using Store and Forward teleaudiology. In other words, the test is performed and then the results are reviewed at a later time for interpretation and recommendations and hearing aid fitting. The last time I was in the DR, we installed an AMTAS pro unit at the clinic. While the non-profit members we work with in the DR are being trained and learning how to provide services, having AMTAS allows our partners to provide full audiometric testing with air & bone.
AudiologyOnline: So patients are being seen for diagnostics even when you’re not there?
Quin Card: Yes! It’s allowing the clinic to move ahead and provide services to more people than we ever could have without it. Having AMTAS will provide for greater service to the population in need.
AudiologyOnline: How have your DR partners adjusted to using AMTAS?
Quin Card: AMTAS is so easy to train on and gives our partners confidence in the audiograms they’re receiving which allows them to fit hearing aids confidently. AMTAS is doing a lot of the footwork right now allowing more patients to get the hearing services they’ve been needing but haven’t had the ability to obtain.
AudiologyOnline: How are the patients in the DR adjusting to AMTAS ?
Quin Card: AMTAS is self-directed and automated, so the patient actually uses software to independently do a hearing test. The instructions are clear and precise so that it’s easy for patients to understand how it works and how to navigate it. It’s so nice to be able to change the language to Spanish for both the patients and the providers. The AMTAS research indicates that about 85% of patients are able to successfully complete an evaluation – and we are finding that to be the case as well. Each AMTAS report has quality indicators that quantify behavioral responses and aid in interpretation.
AudiologyOnline: Can you see AMTAS in other places besides humanitarian audiology?
Quin Card: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, our trips force me to think outside the box and implement tools that I may not have thought of. AMTAS is a well-researched and validated solution that can and should be implemented in other audiology practices. Accessing hearing healthcare is not just a rural DR problem – it’s experienced a lot in the US. Audiologists that I work with on a daily basis have told me that there are so many patients that need their help, but there is a significant lack of time and staff. AMTAS could ease the burden of all audiologists by obtaining basic diagnostic audiometry thus allowing them to see more patients. It’s so exciting to see that technology continues to offer us new ways to connect with those who need our services.
To learn more about automation from GSI, please visit https://www.grason-stadler.com/products/audiometers/gsi-amtas