Prior to becoming the editor for HR in the early 90s, I learned some important lessons about measuring performance while working as a marketing manager at a British-based plastics group that manufactured a variety of components for the fenestration and flooring industry. This was an exciting—albeit Cro-Magnon pre-Internet—period for PC-based marketing. Desktop publishing was a fairly new technology, and words like “data-mining” and “integrated leads management” were the jargon du jour. At that time, I was on the “other side” of B-to-B trade publishing, creating marketing and advertising programs while also making decisions about what worked and what didn’t. Initially, much of the decision-making was done “on the fly.” However, we eventually established several survey and feedback methods that involved our sales force and cross sections of potential and current customers who were queried about product offerings, leads, advertising, conventions and sales events, promotional literature, etc.

We gathered a lot of information, and I remember a few sheepish meetings that dealt with presenting the data to our company president. Not all of it showed sterling sales and marketing direction—or even a correct advertising focus in some cases. For example, our consumer research in a region of the UK suggested that our distributors’ co-op ads failed to mention one of the primary reasons people living there were buying our products. Yikes.

These types of insights can be both humbling and eye-opening. But they’re vital for success. Without the considerable time and effort expended to ask questions and analyze the results, basic long-held assumptions can evolve into intractable head-scratching barriers to moving forward.

This edition of HR contains Part 1 of an important two-part article by Brian Taylor, AuD, that discusses methods for measuring and improving quality and productivity in a hearing care office. Specifically, Dr Taylor looks at the “3-E’s of Quality” (Efficiency, Effectiveness, and an Emphasis on Results) and then shows how you can implement 7 easy-to-use measurement tools to see if your services and product delivery are effective, efficient, patient-centered, and results-oriented.

But it all starts with measurement. The article also cites business guru Peter Drucker’s comment: “When you measure something, you begin the process of improving it.” As I found out in the window and door industry, you can’t possibly know where to go until you first know where you are. Similarly, measurements of practice quality, like the first six measurement tools provided in Dr Taylor’s article, in combination with the plethora of available laboratory and self-reports (ie, real-ear measurement, speech-in-noise, and validation tools such as the COSI, APHAB, GHABP, etc), can provide solid data for assessing the quality and effectiveness of your practice and its staff members.

Too often I’ve heard dispensing professionals cite a low return-for-credit (RFC) rate as evidence for everything from high customer satisfaction to impeccable technical skills. In fact, my experience over years of putting together dispenser surveys is that there are so many factors influencing RFCs (eg, the sizable hearing-aid-in-the-drawer population, the important differences in a “return” as defined by a manufacturer versus a dispenser, etc) that, as a measurement tool, RFCs become almost impossible to interpret. Any real validation of patient satisfaction or benefit requires an established validation tool—and one that has good normative data.

Taking a longer view, implementing an effective business protocol or process—one that details the procedures for which the entire practice staff is responsible and accountable—is at the heart of quality and productivity. It’s essential for improving any department, business, or industry.

Karl Strom