Extern programs, hiring the right provider, community outreach, physician referrals: Dr. Tony Milliano, Au.D., offers his advice on these subjects and more
With over 27 years of experience practicing audiology in the Western Kentucky area and being a practice owner since 2004, Dr. Tony Milliano knows what it takes to become a successful owner and to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself. We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Milliano to discuss a wide range of topics including the benefits of having an extern, the importance of building relationships within your community, and how you can build up a physician referral program.
Q: How was your experience in bringing on a fourth-year extern?
A: Our fourth-year extern has now been with us for over 4 years as a provider That was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done from my practice. It’s allowed us a lot of opportunity to serve the area with greater manpower than what we had before, and it’s been a real great blessing.
Q: Bringing on a new provider or extern is kind of one of those steps you take as you’re maturing in your business. When you’re going through that process, what are the things that you look for when you’re hiring a provider to come work with you?
A: I’m looking for someone who wants to be there for the right reasons, because they really want to help people hear better and serve the community. Since our practice, Audiology & Hearing Center, is in a small community, it’s important to me that they not only fit in my practice, but they also fit in the community.
I’m really looking for a cultural fit from a business and audiology perspective, and someone who is going to be integrated into the community. They’re going to be able to go out and meet with the civic groups, join the Chamber of Commerce, and become integrated in the community and really learn every aspect of audiology, not just the clinical aspects.
Q: So, it’s more than just being a good button pusher?
A: Yes. If someone’s looking to just push buttons, then they’re really kind of in it for the wrong reasons. We really want to provide a global service, because in a community where we are at, you can’t specialize in everything. We want someone who’s going to be able to cover the spectrum and can see pediatrics, do some vestibular testing, fit hearing aids, and not just work with one specific manufacturer. We want somebody who’s going to look at the situation with the patient and make decisions that are in the best interest of the patient.
Q: Where is that stereotype that private practice owners only do dispensing? That’s one of the things that I hear from a lot of students when I talk to them — I really want to get a wide scope of practice. And I want to do a little bit of everything. There is that stigma and that belief that that’s not what it’s like. I try to tell them, you can do a lot of different things within a private practice.
A: It’s more than just hearing aids. We serve the entire age spectrum. We do a lot of diagnostic testing to identify pathologies of the ear. It’s not just testing to find out if you need to fit a hearing aid. We see a lot of asymmetrical losses. We see a lot of medically related conductive losses and things like that. And we’re blessed in our community that we have a couple ENTs in the area that don’t have audiologists on their own staff. They look at us as peers, and we are an integral part of the success of their practice. We collaborate back and forth to make sure that we’re providing the best care for the patient overall.
Q: Did you have to work to build that relationship with those ENT practices?
A: It comes over time, and it comes with trust. Trust is not something that is immediate. It must be earned. It comes from sending quality reports, doing quality diagnostics and quality follow-ups. They go back and see their physicians, regardless if it’s an ENT physician or a family practice physician. Those physicians talk to their patients about their experience. They want their patients to see quality providers and get quality service. If they get positive feedback, then they’re more apt to send referrals our way.
Q: In your discussion about community and being in the community, a lot of practices may not realize how important it is to build that relationship with their community, businesses, and local organizations. For someone who is looking to do more community outreach, what would you suggest as a first step to getting out there?
A: There are a lot of ways you can approach that. A lot of it depends on the community that you’re in. I know in our community, one of the very first things that I did was join the committee for the Red Cross blood drives. Through that, you’re meeting numerous people. Volunteer for the afternoon when they’re having the blood drive, so you meet those kinds of people. Volunteer at different community events. If there’s opportunity to join your civic organizations, your Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and things like that, those are great places to meet other business influencers in the community.
It could be joining a community theater organization or your place of worship. There’s all kinds of ways to get involved in the community. You can’t guide someone with that. They have to do that themselves and pursue their interests, because that’s what makes a well-rounded person. Because you want proficient audiologists, but overall you want them to be happy as a person.
Q: What nugget of information, or gold nugget of wisdom, would you want to impart on students or new audiologists?
A: I would say, don’t restrict your options as far as your practice setting. I talk to a lot of students, and it seems like their university programs are encouraging them to go to hospitals and ENT practices, or the VA. Private practice is a great option to learn as a new, young provider. I know in my situation, I don’t want our new providers or externs to become just good audiologists clinically. We talk about the financial aspects. We talk about how to build marketing plans. We talk about human resources issues. Things like that you’d never have an opportunity to discover if you were working in a large organization.
We would like to thank Dr. Tony Milliano, Au.D., for taking the time to sit down with us and share his experience and wisdom for students, new audiologists, and even experienced audiologists.
If you have any questions about these topics or would like to get information on how Audigy can help with your hiring strategies, implementing a physician referral program, and developing an extern program, please contact our team today.