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Five ways cochlear implant care is being delivered out-of-the clinic

It is well acknowledged that in Australia and all other countries, the pathway for adults to reach timely and appropriate cochlear implant care is marked by hurdles, be they awareness, funding, geography or expertise. Hearing Implants Australia was born to champion initiatives and innovations to overcome these well known and established hurdles.

The rapidly evolving events of the current #coronavirus crises has thrown an all new hurdle in front of our hearing implant patients that makes their journey all the more unpredictable, precarious and delayed. #COVID19 has had a tangible and detrimental effect on our ability to look after patients that have been implanted as well as those yet to be implanted. Traditional cochlear implant care based in clinics with face to face interaction as the sole method of service delivery in the corona virus era is no longer permissible, practical or possible. The reality is such rigid cochlear implant care will never have the same relevance.

As the events of the coronavirus situation rapidly evolves from day to day so must our response to think outside the square to deliver the same promised care to our patients in an undiluted, undiminished and unrelenting fashion. Hearing Implants Australia has championed hearing implant care and reassured the patients that need it with five initiatives for non-contact clinic care. The clinic is now beyond four walls.

1. Outdoor clinic. There is no reason why hearing implant audiology needs to be restricted within an indoor clinic. Clinics and hospitals will no longer be places that patients are willing to visit if there is an alternative. Implant technology and mapping has progressed to the point that in a wired or wireless fashion, troubleshooting and programming can be performed in any setting that it is appropriate. Including an outdoor setting with 1.5 metres of social distancing that is required today. Human interaction and patients value especially at a time of crises face to face interaction as much as the mapping experience and both are preserved with an outdoor clinic interaction.

2. Car-to-Car Clinic. Programming may not be preferable in a clinic or in a patients home. Distance still needs to be overcome especially for regional patients. Patients and clinician can meet halfway making every location a possible clinic experience.

3. Home Delivered Care. Certain patients may be self-isolated, or because of their age, be advised to remain in the confines and safety of their own home. For these elderly patients it is both inappropriate to have clinicians within the sanctity of their home. They do not have the technological devices or knowledge to be able to provide remote programming. A tablet can be delivered to the doorstep by a hearing implant clinician or a third party and programmed from the curb or from the clinic. This avails the patient to both audiological and medical contact as appropriate.

4. Remote Clinic. Joint clinics with surgeon and audiologists are possible to address all needs of the recipient and their family. This is possible through a myriad of software options (e.g. Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, etc) that are high quality and user friendly. This is well recognised by a Medicare rebate in telehealth, with further changes to support the clinics receive reimbursement for audiological services provided. High quality patient centered Telehealth could not be more relevant in the corona era and beyond.

5. Well-being Clinic. The restrictions necessary with the corona virus situation and hearing loss are compounding factors for isolation apprehension and anxiety. Cochlear implant care is more than the device or the hearing that it yields in all times, particularly presently, holistic care, reassurance and well-being from hearing clinicians and hearing implant peers is invaluable. This cannot occur physically but it can occur virtually. A virtual patient support and well-being clinic has been immediately established by Hearing Implants Australia to meet this emerging need. This includes individual and group sessions to foster community support.

If you are looking for support for your cochlear implant, or how we can support your clinic provide these services to your patients, please contact us directly here.

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