Spoiler: Some might call this a political post. But, I promise this is not a rant. It’s a concern I’d like to share.
While speaking with a very dear friend of mine, the topic of socialized medicine came up. She is very much in favor of such a method of distribution for health care. She fully believes that every person is deserving of a healthy life and needs a guarantee of access to the professionals who deliver that care. I do not disagree that every life is valuable and each deserves care that affords health and comfort. But, I also love what I do and feel I provide the very best care for my clients. Should socialized medicine be our new distribution method of care, I would lose my practice. When I voiced this concern she responded that I could just go get a job in the hospital. I could still work. Still earn a living. I just wouldn’t be my own boss.
I was extremely hurt by her callous disregard of my career, my life’s work, and my dreams of a better way to provide audiological care. But, the topic of this blog is not my hurt feelings. The topic of this blog is the insult she gave not only to me but to my clients as well. I’ve worked in hospitals before. Hospitals have a process. It’s an “if-then” process. You’ve all been there. You’ve all walked through it. When a person goes into the hospital, there is an illness and there needs to be a cure. This is something that people want right now! Tylenol lowers a fever. That’s how it works.
Audiological care in a hospital is treated the same way. Testing is done. Hearing aids are fit. Client is sent home. Hearing loss cured. But, that’s not how hearing impairment works. It’s not a one and done. It’s not something that can be tested, diagnosed, and treated in 30 minutes. This thing that I do is more about relationships, communication, self-esteem, and quality of life than about doing a test and putting a gadget in an ear. My clients have come to expect being treated like actual people with actual problems they want to solve. Actual problems take time to define, discuss, and find the right solution. There are a lot of hearing aids on the market. If a hearing aid is the answer… which one? Which program? Which listening situations need what kind of amplification? Why does it make a difference?
I had an interview with a very busy hearing aid dispenser some years ago who fit one model of hearing aid on every one of his clients. Every single one. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that everybody could be fit with the same hearing aid. It made it very easy for him because he only needed to learn to program one device. It was “a solid workhorse, and that’s all anybody needs”. He kept that device on the shelf and sold them immediately after the hearing test. I left the interview seething. Who was he to determine through his own inability to learn anything new that EVERYBODY was the same? Everybody is NOT the same! Everybody has different listening needs, different sound quality preferences, different tolerance levels, different things that make them happy or angry or nervous or content. Everybody cannot wear the same hearing aid. But he didn’t take the time to get to know the people or their needs. How was he so busy? He contracted with insurance companies with exclusive rights. He was the only preferred provider offered. The people who wanted to use their insurance benefits had no other choice. Sweet gig for him. And, I could have been part of that. Except I disagree with every aspect of the way he does business.
I have a fear that when medical care becomes a processed commodity, people will start to feel like a number, like cattle being herded through a chute. Every aspect of individualized personal care will become simply a pleasant, but distant memory. Although this might be a more cost effective way to deliver hearing care, it would be like trading away color because there is no useful value in art…