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TeleCare 3.0

What it is

Signia TeleCare is the world’s first telehealth application which connects hearing aid wearers with their hearing care professional (HCP). By enabling remote consultations and hearing aid adjustments during the critical home trial period and beyond, TeleCare helps patients stay satisfied with their new hearing aids even after they leave the office, and helps HCPs save time and differentiate their practice.

TeleCare consists of two parts:

  • A smartphone myHearing™ app for the wearer that can be downloaded for free via the Google Play™ or Apple® App Store. This app is the wearer’s connection to their HCP for any remote consultation and hearing aid adjustments.
  • A web-based portal that professionals use to stay in contact with patients. All information sent and received from the patient’s smartphone app is also recorded within this portal. Now with TeleCare 3.0, remote fine tuning can be also done directly from the Connexx fitting software. Once the HCP helps the patient download and set-up the smartphone app, they are connected and can exchange information with the security and privacy of end-to-end encryption.

Since market launch in October 2016, more than 5,000 hearing care professionals in 32 countries have signed up to TeleCare, making it by far the most successful telehealth application in hearing care.

What it does

TeleCare provides benefit for both patients and hearing care professionals. Benefits for the patient include:

  • Convenient professional access.With the myHearing app, the patient can initiate real-time text, audio, and even video[1] calls with the HCP to ask questions and solve problems without having to wait for the next follow-up appointment, which could be weeks away.
  • Improved hearing aid performance. When used with Signia Bluetooth® hearing aids, the myHearing app creates a connection between the wearer’s hearing instruments and the smartphone’s motion sensors. By adding motion sensor information to the automatic steering of the hearing aids, improved signal processing can be applied for directionality to yield a better listening experience for the wearer throughout the day.
  • Adapt to hearing aids faster.Patients are given listening tasks to become familiar with their new listening experience and their use of the new hearing aids. These activities not only encourage wearers to try out their new devices in different situations, they also enhance the wearer’s ownership of the trial process.
  • Interactive use and care guide. The app contains information about their specific hearing aids’ functionalities, and care and usage instructions. This includes handling videos as well as frequently asked questions.
  • Universal remote control.The app turns the patient’s smartphone into a hearing aid remote control with adjustment possibilities for volume, program, microphone focus, tone control, and tinnitus therapy volume.

[1] Video calls not available in all markets.

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Screenshots from the myHearing app

For the hearing care professional, benefits include:

  • Full remote fine tuning – wherever the patient is. Once the patient has been fitted in the office, HCPs have the option to choose between the popular 4-band equalizer in the TeleCare portal or the full live remote fine tuning from the Connexx fitting software. As all adjustments are directly applied to the hearing aid, HCPs obtain immediate feedback from their patients – just like an office or home visit.
  • Improved patient monitoring. With the secure professional portal, HCPs can monitor their patients’ progress in terms of listening experiences and hearing aid usage on the patient app at any time. Negative patient ratings are highlighted so the professional is alerted in a timely manner. This way, HCP are informed before patients become at risk of rejecting amplification.
  • More customized fittings. Patient feedback provided via the myHearing app is visible in the HCP portal. This feedback provides talking points during follow-up appointments, and pinpoints issues which require further fine-tuning adjustments or counseling. Furthermore, when working with Bluetooth enabled hearing aids, the HCP portal displays real-time acoustic information of the wearer’s environment to yield a more precise and customized fitting.
  • Patient care without taking up valuable office time. Minor patient problems and questions can be addressed in a few minutes with a quick call or text, freeing up valuable appointment time and increasing productivity.
  • Business Analytics. HCPs can compare their practice’s success rate to the market average and between locations in a multi-office practice. It is possible to register multiple office locations for the same practice. For these practices, HCPs can see location averages and rankings. The performance indicators show:
    • Duration of each trial
    • How many trials result in sales
    • Success rate of trials
    • Average patient satisfaction
    • Market success average and clinic average
  • Differentiation from competition. The enhanced levels of patient care enabled by TeleCare allows the HCP to highlight their professionalism and expertise to patients
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TeleCare 3.0 live remote fine tuning is integrated together with Connexx so the HCP can adjust hearing aid fittings remotely just as if the patient is physically in the office.

Study findings

Since the introduction of TeleCare, anonymous analytics data shows that there have been more than 150,000 patient-HCP interactions (ie: chats, lessons, ratings) around the world, including 5,000 remote tuning interactions. With this large amount of data available, valuable insights can be deduced to help HCPs improve their service and business success. For example, it was found that the two most significant indicators for a potential hearing aid return are patient average satisfaction in week 1 of the trial, and if the patient completed any hearing activities in the app in week 4.

Patient average satisfaction values are calculated by assigning the five rating options to values 1 to 5 so that Very Unsatisfied = 1, Unsatisfied = 2, Neutral = 3, Satisfied = 4, and Very Satisfied = 5.  For example, if in the first week, a patient gave a Satisfied rating one day, and a Very Satisfied rating on another day, his average satisfaction value that week is calculated as 4.5.

Analyzing patient interactions showed that those who have an average satisfaction rating in week 1 of at least a 3.5, and performed at least one activity in week 4 have an 8% probability of returning the hearing aids, whereas those patients whose week 1 rating is worse than 3.5, and did not complete an activity in week 4 have a significantly higher probability of returning their hearing aids at 49%.

In other words, TeleCare helps HCPs identify patients who are at risk of rejecting amplification, and gives them an early opportunity to intervene before the hearing aids are returned. This finding also confirms that higher patient engagement leads to hearing aid adoption and patient satisfaction.

What is new with 3.0

TeleCare 3.0 turns the patient’s smartphone into a hearing aid programming interface, and virtually all programming possibilities of Connexx can be carried out remotely. Professional-patient interactions can take place via video calls while hearing aid fine tuning is accomplished via the integration of Connexx and the TeleCare Portal.

Such “virtual home visits” enabled by TeleCare 3.0 eliminate the need for patients to physically visit the HCP after the first fit in the office. People who live in rural or remote regions, those with limited physical mobility, or those without access to convenient transportation will especially appreciate such a benefit.

Remote follow-up fittings also allow HCPs to provide fittings better customized to the patient’s real-life listening environments. Appointments can take place during the most relevant situations in the patient’s lives, such as in the living room with the TV on, or in the car while the spouse is driving, and hearing aid settings can be fine-tuned in real time based on patient feedback as well as acoustic information collected by the hearing aids.

Why it is important

MarkeTrak 9 has shown that 27 percent of patients who were recommended hearing aids chose not to keep them after the trial period. Yet for those who ultimately did purchase hearing aids, the second and fourth most commonly cited reasons were, “Trusted the hearing care professional” and “The trial clearly showed hearing aids could improve hearing” respectively. These results clearly illustrate the importance of the HCP’s involvement and accessibility in the trial process. Signia TeleCare serves as the platform to make HCPs both more involved and more accessible to patients during the trial period and well beyond.

Compatibility

TeleCare 3.0 is generally compatible with the entire Signia portfolio of hearing aids. In fact, HCPs can use TeleCare with all their patients, regardless of the make or model of the hearing aid fitted. However, note that the remote adjustment functionality and hearing aid use and care guides are only applicable when used with Signia hearing aids. Full live remote tuning is only compatible with Signia Nx™ Bluetooth hearing aids.

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Rebecca Herbig, AuD

Rebecca Herbig, Au.D., is Manager & Editor of Scientific Marketing for Signia at Sivantos Inc. in USA. She spent five years with Sivantos (then Siemens Audiology Solutions) in Germany and prior to that worked as a clinical audiologist in northern Virginia. Rebecca earned her B.S. in Audiology from the University of Texas in Dallas and an Au.D. from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.