A year ago, hearing care professionals were scrambling to keep their dispensing offices afloat amid the Covid-19 crisis and a giant problem: not being able to have patients visit for in-person hearing care appointments. With their unique view on data related to business practices during this period, Sycle quickly came up with several innovative solutions to help the practice owners and clinicians who use their office management system software on a daily basis. Hearing Review recently interviewed Sycle VP of Sales & Enterprise Services Stephanie Grein—a 13-year veteran with the company—about Sycle’s perspectives on hearing care business practices both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hearing Review: What has been Sycle’s experience with Covid-19, and how do you think it impacted the hearing industry?
Grein: The impact of Covid has been devastating to many industries, businesses, and individuals. Sycle was lucky from a company standpoint. Since we provide a SaaS solution [Software as a Service], our employees were able to quickly pivot and work from home.
As far as how it impacted the hearing industry, we unfortunately saw some businesses close, but were also encouraged by our customers’ resilience to the situation and the creative solutions they implemented, like curbside services and contactless payment options.
HR: How was Sycle able to help their customers in the pandemic? What changes did you employ?
Grein: As the market leader in audiology practice management, Sycle reacted immediately to the pandemic by developing and releasing a free telehealth solution to our customers in order to provide a HIPAA-compliant communication platform. That is a critical tool for doing business during a pandemic, and many of our customers took advantage of the telehealth capabilities. The number of telehealth appointments were considerable—and this continues to be used in significant numbers. It looks like it’s here to stay.
HR: Were you able to get specific industry data to give you deeper insights into clinic activity in order to fine-tune your offerings?
Grein: Yes, but we had to start a new project in order to understand what was happening within the clinics. We assembled an internal team and started looking at anonymized data to help us analyze what was going on globally. And those insights told us which features would benefit our customers and their patients the most.
HR: Can you share those learnings with us?
Grein: Absolutely. The data, of course, is limited to Sycle customers who opted-in to share anonymized data. We first approached the data to understand the impact on patient appointments. Existing appointments, compared to the previous year, were down 8.9%, with a larger impact on new patient appointments which were down 23.3%. Overall we saw hearing aid sales were down 12.7% overall, roughly aligning with the HIA data which averaged a 14% decrease for the commercial market.
Since appointments and sales were down, we asked ourselves: How can we help the business?
HR: What did you do as a result?
Grein: We knew that focusing on prospect marketing and optimizing operations would be key for clinic recovery. We organized a series of webinars for ancillary products and services, both from Sycle and Sycle Partners, that would help clinics drive more patients in and result in increased sales activities and streamlining operations. To optimize our customers’ time, we planned short 30-minute webinars starting last summer, and running periodically through this spring. The webinars focused on marketing automation and lead generation, patient reviews and online scheduling, credit card processing and telehealth, paperless offices and appointment reminders, and more. Included in that list were partners like BlueWing, Audiology Design, 3DM Marketing, MedPB, Review Wave, PayJunction, and Booknow. These webinars introduced products and services to our customers that they could use to acquire more patients and to deliver services to existing patients for add-on business, plus tools for modernizing their clinic management.
And while these statistics gave us insights into the impact of the business, Sycle’s curiosity was piqued around the impact to patients.
HR: What kind of insights on patients did the data reveal? How were they impacted and how do you think clinics might best respond to the changes?
Grein:The patient makeup changed with regard to age. The number of patients over 80 decreased by 8.9%. For patients 20-39 and 40-59, the percentage increase was 15.1% and 5.1%, respectively.
Clinics need to adapt to the evolving demographic makeup of their patients. The numbers suggest that clinics need to adopt online tools like appointment scheduling, which will be key for younger audiences.
HR: How is the industry recovering now, and what is Sycle doing to help businesses recover?
Grein: The pandemic had a strong impact on hearing healthcare businesses, but the numbers are returning to normal. In order to support our customers and their recovery, we are introducing new features and integrating with partners to provide the best solutions for today’s modern clinic. Some examples include adding more marketing automation platform integrations, online scheduling options, a new custom form builder. What I’m most excited about is Sycle’s new patient portal…although I might get in trouble for announcing that pre-release!
HR: How do you see this impacting the future of audiology and hearing care?
Grein: While I would never wish this to happen again, we must look at the positives, and use the data and our learnings to adapt and change with society. The modern clinic, with innovative, forward-thinking solutions, will be key in supporting patients and raising awareness in the hearing industry.
We believe the pandemic drove innovation out of necessity. Sycle encourages clinics to partner with business solutions that are pushing the envelope with technology—not only for patient care, but for business and financial management, as well. Sycle is committed to being the leading developer of the most effective solutions for today’s clinics. And we’ll continue to partner with companies we believe will give our customers the greatest benefits.
Hearing Review thanks Joel Lockwood at Sycle for his contributions to this article.
Image: © Siarhei Yurchanka | Dreamstime.com