As we forge ahead into 2023, audiology practices face a myriad of challenges. The growing prevalence of hearing loss, rapid technological advancements, and changing market dynamics are just a few of the many hurdles that audiologists must overcome to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. With an estimated 466 million people worldwide suffering from disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the demand for audiology services is at an all-time high. But to meet this demand, audiology practices must confront and navigate the challenges that lie ahead.
The rapid development of technology is both a blessing and a curse for audiology practices. On one hand, advancements in hearing aid technology and cochlear implants have led to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction. For instance, recent innovations in rechargeable hearing aids, wireless connectivity, and AI-powered algorithms for noise reduction and speech enhancement have significantly improved the listening experience for hearing aid users.
On the other hand, these rapid advancements have also led to an influx of over- the-counter (OTC) hearing devices, which present their own set of challenges. While this increased accessibility has the potential to benefit those with mild to moderate hearing loss, it also raises concerns about self-diagnosis and treatment without professional guidance.
In addition, the complexity of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) coding presents an ongoing challenge for hearing care professionals, often resulting in confusion, billing errors, and delayed reimbursements.
One of the primary challenges in CPT coding for audiology is the continuous evolution of services and procedures. As audiologists expand their scope of practice, new codes must be developed to accurately reflect these changes. Expanding CPT codes within audiology services would provide a more comprehensive and accurate picture of the services that audiologists provide. It would also ensure that patients have access to the services.
As an example, vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP) testing has emerged as an essential diagnostic tool for assessing balance disorders. However, the appropriate CPT codes for VEMP testing (92517 and 92518) were only introduced in 2021, causing confusion and billing discrepancies in the years prior. The ongoing expansion of audiology services necessitates regular updates to the CPT coding system, which, in turn, requires audiologists to stay abreast of these changes.
In conclusion, audiology practices in 2023 face a complex set of challenges, ranging from the growing prevalence of hearing loss and rapid technological advancements to changing market dynamics and reimbursement issues. It is essential to address these issues to ensure that audiologists can focus on what truly matters—providing exceptional patient care.