In the hearing healthcare industry CostCo is associated with negative feelings. This most likely attributable to their ability to undercut independent hearing healthcare practitioners in the market. In contrast it becomes quite obvious that consumers/patients are quite satisfied with CostCo per majority opinion in these forums. The latter rather than the former is what I would consider the gold standard for determining what is best for the end user. On the positive side for CostCo, I have heard that CostCo practitioners are required to performed both verification (i.e., real ear measures) and validation (e.g., APHAB or COSI) measures which I think is fantastic as they are too often omitted by independent hearing healthcare practitioners. Both verification and validation contribute positively to patient satisfaction.
The negatives to CostCo are few but notable. They are more likely to employ hearing aid dispensers rather than audiologists. This, on average, would affect the knowledge base, in terms of both depth and breadth, of the hearing healthcare practitioner as well as their association with a clinical versus sales perspective on hearing aids. The former is rather straightforward while the latter is more so my opinion.
I realize that my intro has been somewhat long-winded but please bare with me. I am interested in the hearing aid user’s opinion of what independent hearing healthcare practitioners need to do in order to allow them to better compete with CostCo for the hearing aid client. The obvious answer to this is cost and I agree that independent practitioners need to more aggressively negotiate with their manufacturers so that they can lower their cost of sale to the end user. However, I also know that it is not feasible at this point in time for independent practitioners to fully match the price of CostCo. So my question is what would you, or the average hearing aid user, like to see in the independent hearing healthcare practitioner that would increase your willingness to pay more (e.g., $1000 to $1500/pair) for their services and product.
This could include hours that are kept by the clinic, speed with which the client can get you in to have problems resolved, knowledge and/or education of the practitioner, counseling abilities, time spent with you, superior fine-tuning abilities, etc. Please share whatever you think is most important here.
I am coming at this from the perspective of an audiology educator who views CostCo as a positive force for the consumer but negative, in the short-term, for the hearing healthcare professions. Obviously we must adapt but I think it is not clear as to what that looks like so I am hoping to solicit feedback from you so I can gain a better understanding of how we can better meet the needs of the hearing aid user.