Practice Building 101: Create Value Innovation
By Mark Moore
Companies that focus on value creation try to improve perceived value of service or goods but often don’t execute sufficiently to stand out in the marketplace. Companies that focus on innovation tend to be technology-driven and may be considered market pioneers ahead of industry standards, but a sole focus on innovation can be lost in a dynamic market. A value innovation strategy places an equal emphasis on value and innovation and is the key to a successful business strategy.
Companies that focus on building a competitive advantage often do so by assessing what competitors do and then striving to do better. Traditionally, this is done by supplying individual products or services of equal value at a reduced price or by employing a bundling strategy to produce a similar result. This “zero-sum” strategy means a company’s gain is achieved at the expense of the competition.
Focusing on value innovation enables a company to expand existing markets and create new ones. This type of strategy allows the company to plan a non-zero-sum game with high pay-off possibilities. Companies adopting this strategy employ a patient-based focus rather than one that measures success against the competition. Practices that anticipate patient needs and are ahead of the industry curve will make competition irrelevant.
In the hearing industry, manufacturers traditionally offer innovative hearing and hearing products, while practitioners offer value—primarily through fitting and service of those products. Very few hearing healthcare practitioners bundle value and practice-based innovation to implement a value innovation strategy. Here are a few examples of value innovation strategies practiced in some audiology and dispensing practices:
Local Expert on Hearing Loss and Associated Comorbidities— In only the last 5-10 years, a large number of credible research studies have surfaced linking hearing loss to disabling conditions such as cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, clinical depression, diabetes, falls among the elderly, ischemic heart disease, depression, and much more. The hearing care practitioner becomes the local expert which in turn creates more informed and impactful on your patient counseling, as well as to help educate doctors and primary care physicians for more patient referrals.
Ototoxic Counseling—Many widely prescribed medications can create ototoxic reactions that contribute to hearing impairment or loss. Providing comprehensive counseling and education to your patients as well as working with their healthcare prescriber to possibly offer an alternative medication that is not ototoxic. This proactive approach with an effective ototoxic assessment of your patient’s medications is part of a value innovation strategy with positive potential for both patient and practitioner.
Computerized interactive listening programs—Interactive aural rehabilitation and listening programs are used to increase patient hearing awareness and to reinforce information given to the patient by the practitioner. These programs range between 20 sessions to as few as five sessions of approximately 25 minutes per session. While the 10- to 20-session formats are designed as true aural rehabilitation tools, the five-session listening programs are designed to increase a new user’s satisfaction with hearing aids and to enhance the hearing aid experience.
Nutritional strategies—Research studies have indicated that nutritional supplements can improve cell metabolic function and reduce the presence of free oxygen radicals. 1 This combination has been documented to slow the pace of age-related hearing loss, to protect against noise-induced hearing loss and to protect against the destructive effects of oxidative stress.
Deficiency in nutrients, like B12 and folic acid can impair hearing by as much as 39% while increasing these nutrients, according to some studies, can protect hearing by as much as 20%. Folic acid deficiency specifically has been linked with high-frequency hearing loss. Research reported on in the December 2010 issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery indicates that deficiencies in folic acid and B12 impinge on hearing by harming the nervous and vascular systems and perhaps even damaging the coating over the cochlear nerve. Much of this damage is due to free radicals. Antioxidants like B12, Folic acid, Omega 3, and vitamin A are all important because they help fight off damaging free radicals.
For noise-induced tinnitus, which is characterized by a chronic or near-chronic ringing in the ears, Folate (vitamin B9), has been shown to be beneficial. Folate also lowers your homocysteine, and having a high blood level of homocysteine has been linked to age-related hearing loss.
Research has shown Zinc may be useful for idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). SSNHL — a sudden, unexplained loss of hearing.
Magnesium is known to help expand blood vessels and improve circulation; it also helps control the release of glutamate, one of the major contributors to noise-induced hearing loss (Le Prell 2011). Animal studies have found that magnesium deficiency increases the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (Sendowski 2006b; Scheibe 2002). A combination of magnesium and other antioxidants may synergistically prevent hearing loss, potentially because magnesium’s ability to increase blood flow also helps transport the protective antioxidants (Le Prell 2011).
Solutions on the Horizon
Research continues on the use of low-level laser light to improve hearing thresholds for patients suffering from sensorineural hearing loss and to moderate the symptoms of sensorineural-induced tinnitus. The present theory is that low-level laser light supplies photonic, non-thermal energy to stimulate discrete cell structures, such as mitochondria. This stimulation induces a cascading effect that results in increased levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a compound essential to cellular health and function. When applied to the ear, this photo-induced metabolic process has been documented in small pilot studies to improve cochlear function.
Adopting a value innovation strategy starts with an innovative practitioner looking beyond what is currently available and redefining problems in the marketplace to develop new solutions for old problems. Simply put, value innovation blends innovation and service. Correctly implemented, a value innovation strategy ensures that a practitioner’s focus on patient needs goes a long way toward the elimination of competitive pressures.
Mark Moore is the Co-Founder and Chairman of InnerScope Advertising Agency Inc. and has been finding innovative audiological solutions for the hearing industry for more than 30 years.
- Seidman, MD and Moneysmith, M. (2006). Save Your Hearing Now, Warner Books, pgs. 74-77
- Kim, Chan, W and Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue Ocean Strategy, Harvard Business School Press.