Audiology doctoral programs have a critical role, but many of them too often have difficulty addressing the fundamentals of practice management — including the vital business-acumen skills that go along with it. This can leave Au.D. students ill-equipped to adapt, thrive, and lead in an increasingly competitive hearing care market.
Let’s talk about this major curriculum gap, why practice-management instruction matters, and how to ensure tomorrow’s hearing care professionals don’t miss out on this crucial component of audiology studies. The good news? Filling the curriculum holes could be easier than you think.
Uncovering the Gaps
Often, practice-management curricula only scratch the surface of what students need to survive and thrive. Many Au.D. programs offer just a single course in business management or practice management, or the content may be incorporated within a professional-issues course or tucked into a weekly grand rounds course. Thus students gain limited exposure to practice-management topics and business acumen in general.
In addition, the major accrediting organizations lack sufficient practice-management curriculum requirements. The Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education gives a bit more attention to the topic than the Council on Academic Accreditation, but there’s plenty of room for improvement among both.
Championing Practice Management
Practice-management skills are critically important for today’s emerging professionals — whether in a nonprofit clinic, independent private practice, a large medical center, or another environment. Such skills:
• Emphasize efficacy and accountability in clinic operations, which matters regardless of the employment setting at hand
• Help professionals distinguish themselves in today’s increasingly competitive market, in which efficiency and effectiveness further set providers and practices apart from the pack
• Prepare emerging audiologists to be responsible for their own revenue generation or other metrics such as numbers of patients helped and other key performance indicators
Changing the Tide
How can students gain the practice-management knowledge they need? As hearing care professionals, we must take ownership of this challenge collectively, including clamoring for our accrediting bodies to address practice-management skills as part of curriculum standards and requirements.
We also need to ensure universities are offering students opportunities to hone their skills with regard to practice-management activities. If you’re operating in a university clinic, for example, consider these questions:
• Are you or your team running the clinic in a manner that gives students hands-on experience with effective management strategies?
• Is practice management part of the students’ learning experience on campus before they leave for their externships or second- and third-year off-campus placements?
• Are students seeing practice-management strategies in action during the day-to-day activities at the clinic?
• Are the sites you’re partnering with for student off-campus experiences modeling best practices for effective business strategies that students will need to succeed?
A couple of universities now offer a concurrent Au.D. and MBA, giving students a potential advantage in the workplace and the industry as they emerge with a dual degree that leans into both the clinical and business sides of audiology.
Students, too, can ask important questions of the Au.D. programs they’re considering. It’s not easy — the application process doesn’t offer much investigative opportunity in this regard — but potential applicants can:
• Explore what types of practice-management courses are offered within the Au.D. curriculum
• Learn who the university’s Au.D. instructors are, including their backgrounds
• Ask about the university’s clinic operations, including its curriculum and key performance indicators
• Seek help connecting with students currently in the program to hear their own candid feedback
For their part, universities can help ensure this information is readily available, showcasing it as a market differentiator in student recruitment.
Audigy University is also here to help. We offer targeted resources for educational institutions interested in beefing up their practice-management content, including:
• Customizable on-site or web-based presentations by our subject-matter experts, including Amyn Amlani, Ph.D., a highly respected audiology professional, scholar, and member of the American Board of Audiology board of governors; Deb Abel, Au.D., a renowned expert on billing and coding and president of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology; and me, a doctor of audiology, a former practice owner, a professor, an American Academy of Audiology president, and a student-learning expert with firsthand experience launching, managing, and selling a successful hearing care practice
• An externship program that works with Au.D. programs, third- and fourth-year students, and business owners to place emerging audiologists with independent, AudigyCertified™, private-practice clinics committed to the highest levels of patient care and team empowerment