Chesterfield, Mo-based Oaktree Products has served the need of the hearing health care community for more than 20 years.
Robert J. Kemp
Founded in 1992, Oaktree Products Inc, Chesterfield, Mo, offers a wide range of essential products and services to the hearing health care community. Hearing Products Report (HPR) recently interviewed Robert J. Kemp, CEO and founder of Oaktree Products, about the companys inception and history, as well as its general line of products, and how it meets the needs of audiologists and other hearing health care professionals. Kemp has more than 20 years of executive management experience in a variety of technical professions including the pharmaceutical and hearing industries.
HPR What need did Oaktree Products meet when it was established in 1992?
Robert J. Kemp: Oaktree Products Inc recognized that the scope of practice for audiology was expanding to include cerumen management. To assist in meeting these needs, the company developed a softening agent called Audiologists Choice® Earwax Removal Drops. As more and more audiologists became involved in cerumen management, infection control became an important issue. Oaktree Products set out to educate audiologists in the area of infection control and to also provide infection control products for use or resale in the hearing health care environment. At that point, we realized that audiologists and other hearing health care professionals were looking for a one-stop shop to meet their supply needs and Oaktree Products began adding products to the line. Currently, we have more than 3,100 items in our catalog.
HPR Is the role of infection control really that critical to the field of audiology?
Kemp: Absolutely. First of all, the scope of practice in audiology has significantly changed over the past several decades, involving the increased risk of potential exposure to bodily fluids during intraoperative monitoring, cerumen removal, vestibular testing, and other diagnostic procedures. Second, hearing health care services are sought by a wide range of individuals who are extremely susceptible to common microorganisms that can make them very sick. They are vulnerable to opportunistic infections due to their age or underlying disease or medicine that they are taking. Lastly, infection control is an OSHA requirement. Through the power of federal law, OSHA mandates, oversees, and enforces infection control programs in health care settings to ensure compliance with current regulations. Failure of compliance results in citations and significant fines.
Infection control directly impacts how audiologists practice. Recently, the American Academy of Audiology issued infection control guidelines (Audiology Today, Vol 15, No. 5, 2003). Now that information on infection control is available, the standard practices for audiologists have changed and effective infection control procedures are a recognized part of routine audiological practice. Audiologists who practice effective infection control procedures are in compliance with best practices; those who do not are not.
HPR You are not the only company that offers infection control products to audiologists and dispensing professionals. What is unique about Oaktree Products role in infection control?
Kemp: Oaktree Products has been committed to educating audiologists, dispensing professionals, and speech-language pathologists in the area of infection control. The importance of infection control was recognized very early on. For example, in 1996, I had the honor of coauthoring Infection Control for the Professions of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, the very first book available on the topic for the field of audiology and speech-language pathology. Over the past 12 years, Oaktree Products has been providing infection control education and training nationally and internationally. More recently, we are very pleased to announce that A.U. Bankaitis, PhD, joined Oaktree Products as vice president of business development. An audiologist with significant clinical, research, and administration experience, Dr Bankaitis previous funded research in the area of HIV and the auditory system naturally led to an interest and a niche-expertise in infection control. Prior to her joining Oaktree Products, we both recognized the critical importance of educating audiologists and hearing instrument specialists in infection control, and coauthored Infection Control in the Hearing Aid Clinic and Infection Control in the Audiology Clinic in 2003. Both books review infection control theory, but also provide practical, step-by-step protocols to follow in dispensing and audiology clinics. These books are really a testament to our commitment toward infection control education.
Lastly, Oaktree Products does offer more than 20 different infection control products for use and resale in the audiology or dispensing environment, including several products under the high-quality name brand Audiologists Choice.
HPR Beyond infection control, what other products and services do you provide?
Kemp: Oaktree Products provides audiologists and other hearing health care providers with over 3,000 products including assistive listening devices (ALDs); products, instrumentation, and equipment for cerumen management; resale accessories; educational products; hearing conservation supplies; diagnostic equipment; and, of course, infection control products. In addition, we provide education, training, and patient brochures, and presentation tools in numerous areas including ALDs, cerumen management, infection control, and other technical aspects of audiology.
HPR Who are your customers?
Kemp: We service the hearing health care industry. Our primary customers are dispensing audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. Because audiologists work in a number of settings, we find that we often do business with the schools, hospitals, and physicians that they work for, as well.
HPR Is there a typical customer profile that you haveeg, size of office, volume, and geographic location?
Kemp: Our customers are most often small business ownerslike usso we have a lot in common. We are doing more and more business with the chains and big buying groups, too. Geographically, our customers are all over the United States, and we are also starting to do some international business.
HPR How can your products be ordered?
Kemp: Oaktree Products offers several means of ordering products. Our comprehensive yet easy-to-read product catalogue provides customers with the ability to call or fax in orders to our courteous and efficient customer representatives. Our customer service reps will work with the customers to help them chose the right products, and if we dont have the item, we will try to find it for them, even if it means sending them to a competitor. Our Web site at www.oaktreeproducts.com provides the ability for busy professionals to order products directly through the Internet.
HPR Anything else unique about your ordering process?
Kemp: In addition to our commitment to providing the highest quality service to our customers, Oaktree Products does not mark up shipping costs. We charge actual freight costs. In other words, if it costs Oaktree Products $4.95 to send a product, the customer is charged $4.95. Also, we are a small family-owned and operated business. When you call in, it is not uncommon to speak to me, or my wife, or my sisters. We like to say that Oaktree is a family tree.
Rosie M. Banks is a contributing writer for Hearing Products Report.