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Determining if Your Hearing Aid Clinic is Considered “Essential”

Several states have announced state-wide shutdowns, directing non-essential businesses to suspend operations during a designated period of time.

Health and medical care generally fall in the category of essential, but whether hearing aid clinics may stay open or must close will be directed by the federal, state, or local jurisdiction. In order to determine whether your business may stay open during a shutdown, IHS recommends calling your county or city health department.

For example, the City of San Francisco issued a “Shelter in Place” Order on March 16, which defines “Healthcare Operations” that may stay open as:

“hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, home healthcare services providers, mental health providers, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. “Healthcare Operations” also includes veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare, broadly defined. “Healthcare Operations” does not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities.”

Under this definition, a San Francisco hearing aid clinic would be considered a “Healthcare Operation” and therefore may stay open during this Shelter in Place directive. Read full order here.

If your health department is unsure about your role as an essential provider, you may inform them that Hearing Aid Specialists and Audiologists are classified in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Standard Occupational Classification in major group “Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations.” Hearing Aid Specialists fall within the minor group “Health Technologists & Technicians,” and Audiologists fall within the minor group “Health Diagnosing & Treating Practitioners.”

Hearing aid professionals, by and large, care for our most vulnerable population, and those at highest risk for medical complications and death from Coronavirus. For piece of mind, a decision to close your doors and use creative, virtual options to provide your patients support, may be the difference between health and illness.

Providing Care During These Times

If you are keeping your clinic office during this time, please screen patients on the phone to determine if the level of care they need is critical. Do they need something you can address with them on the phone or virtually?

If you do have your office open, please follow the CDC guidelines for infection control and keeping a 6 feet distance between people. You may want to remove some chairs from your waiting rooms to create a distance between them. Working to minimize waiting room times and the number of people in your office is wise. Follow guidelines put out by the government (local/state/federal). Develop a plan to minimize contact, perhaps offering a drive-up service.

There are many tools you can use to reach out to customers as alternatives to face-to-face communication. Talking to them on the phone, via email, your website, perhaps a podcast, Skype, Facetime, etc. are all options. The use of remote programming and tele-health are options that may work well for you and your patients.

Update from HHS on Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19

Communicating With Your Clients About Coronavirus

If you keep your office open, here are some suggestions to reduce your clients' fears about visiting your office for an appointment:

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