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019 – Mark Truong – Hearing Aid Genius Bars

The next episode of the Future Ear Podcast features Mark Truong, audiology student and host of The Hear Me Out Podcast. I came across Mark’s podcast a few months back and was impressed by his guests and the overall quality of his podcast. So, I reached out to Mark to introduce myself and got to know him a bit, and we decided Mark should come on my podcast to share some of his key learnings.

Mark launched his podcast last year as he was just striking out to become an audiologist during his first year as an Audiology student. I’m impressed both by the quality of Mark’s podcast, but also in Mark’s initiative to start a podcast at 21 as a first year student. It takes a lot of courage to launch a podcast and ask seasoned professionals for their time to interview them at such a young age, so I really applaud Mark for what he’s doing.

Our conversation is largely themed around some of the big takeaways that Mark has had from his podcast guests. One of those takeaways is that the end consumer/patient experience should be the upmost priority. That sounds obvious, but it should be recognized that one of the biggest changes that’s underway in the world of hearing healthcare is the new avenues of accessibility that are available to today’s patients.

It wasn’t that long ago when folks seeking hearing aids were strictly limited to purchasing devices through hearing care providers or entities like the VA. Then came Costco, encouraging other big box retailers to follow suit. Online channels came next, which will be followed by a slew of new avenues to purchase OTC options. The access to these devices is opening up in a dramatic way, which means that the path for being a successful provider in these new times will largely be rooted in how well they can position and advertise their value to prospective patients.

This has been a reoccurring theme in all of the audiology-specific episodes I’ve done so far, from Geoff Cooling to Anna Pugh to Dave Copithorne to Mark. What’s happening is that the table stakes are being raised, but what continues to be reiterated throughout each of these conversations is that hearing care providers have the largest stack of chips to raise. In essence, their number one differentiator – their expertise/experience/education – is the not only their most significant advantage, but it’s also the hardest aspect for online and big-box offerings to replicate.

We continue to expand on this idea, using Apple’s Genius Bar as a comparison, by wondering if tomorrow’s successful practice will look something like an Apple store. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that the gold star patient experience of tomorrow will need to not involve best practices centered around the diagnostics and fitting of the hearing aids (the traditional, audiological services), but also in matching people to technology that meets their needs, and walking them through how to get the most out of these new devices.

The example I use in this conversation is podcasts. Bluetooth hearing aids are not only amplification tools, they’re increasingly becoming more of a conduit to content, similar to something like a television. Therefore, it might make sense during the fitting process to have a step-by-step guide of how to download and listen to podcasts, and even have brochures printed out with lists of popular podcasts by category to get people started. The same could be done with audio books. Who knows, maybe it turns out to be the patient’s favorite aspect of their new device that they’d not be experimenting with, without a little bit of hand-holding and guidance. I’d bet they’d tell their friends about that kind of experience.

Again, this is not the type of experience that will be offered via online or big box avenues. These are the small things that can accumulate together into a much different, much more one-to-one patient experience. I’m very confident that a lot of very smart providers are going to thrive in the 2020’s by finding ways to enhance their service, and they’ll likely do so via a combination of their expertise + leaning into technology.

-Thanks for Reading-

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