The Hearing Review’s Editor Emeritus, Karl Strom, recently sat down with Joel Lockwood, President and CEO of Sycle LLC to discuss how the company has helped its clients maintain their practices during the pandemic as well as helping to design solutions that incorporate digital efficiencies to help better manage patient relationships. Here’s what he had to say:

Q:  Joel, I’ve worked with you at Sycle for years when you served as VP of Marketing and Communications, and you were recently named company president in March. For those who have not met you, can you tell us a little about your background and career?

A: Happy to, Karl. I’ve been in the software industry for over 30 years, and have leadership and executive experience in the technology sector, guiding teams across functional areas focused on delivering products and services to customers. I’ve managed in enterprise, start-up, and agency organizations, working with F500 customers as well as small businesses. My connection to Sycle goes way back.  I was partners with Sycle founder Ridge Sampson at our digital agency when Sycle was being born over 20 years ago and was an original investor. I came to work at Sycle about 2½ years ago as the VP of Marketing, as you noted, and moved into the President position a few months ago.

Q: Sycle has a very unique vantage point in that you can view the collective data in real time and observe some general trends that may not always be apparent to others. Looking at the dispensing offices that are using your software systems, how has the recovery from the pandemic been progressing and what interesting things are you noting right now?

A: We had seen clinics return close to pre-pandemic levels as far as number of appointments go in the 6-9 months after the initial pandemic “shutdown.” What we have noticed since then is an increased interest in tools that improve clinic efficiency and the ability to see more patients. Being more “digital” is key to that improvement.

In close collaboration with our valued partners and industry thought leaders, we developed solutions that provided our customers with the ability to promote and facilitate meaningful digital interactions with their patients.  For example, Sycle being first to market with a telehealth solution just weeks after the rise of the pandemic. This allowed Sycle’s customers to continue to treat patients remotely while keeping everyone safe. This critical capability has allowed healthcare providers to conduct online appointments remotely and provide services to their patients. We shifted our development focus to facilitate delivery of this solution in an expedited fashion to promote business continuity. 

This “quest for digital” trend has definitely grown since the pandemic, as our customers search for additional operational efficiencies.  In response, for example, we launched a Patient Portal solution to streamline the patient intake process. Filling out forms online ahead of time, including Patient Intake, Medical History, and Insurance, streamlines client intake and in-office workflows. Sycle has many ideas we’re working on to help our clients optimize workflows and drive business efficiencies.

Q: What do you see as some of the distinguishing features of today’s most successful practices using Sycle? Who’s getting ahead fastest?

A: The clinics that have a competitive edge are the ones who are investing in tools that help optimize and automate their practices. We have many clinics moving to a paperless office, leveraging eDocs. Utilizing tools like eClaims for insurance processing, patient financing integrated with Sycle’s practice management software, such as CareCredit and HealthiPlan, all help optimize clinic operations. QuickBooks syncing is another.

Certainly, responding to market shifts is another key to being a successful practice. With significant industry changes, like third-party payer/managed care, being adaptable is a must.  One of Sycle’s goals is to support our practices as they respond to these changes and ensure that our platform evolves to meet evolving clinic needs. For example, Sycle introduced additional tools to aid clinics in profitably administering their managed care programs. Over the counter (OTC) is another market shift that is going to have an influence on clinics. Sycle is working on new capabilities to help clinics prepare.

No less important is the ability to use data insights provided by Sycle to target actions and promote operational gains and drive patient throughput without compromising clinical excellence. Sycle’s robust reporting capabilities gives healthcare providers meaningful data insights into their business operations which translates into actionable business decisions for our customers resulting in lower costs and enhanced patient care.

Q: One of the features that seems to be picking up a lot of steam is online booking of appointments, as well as patient reminders and communication via text and email. How valuable are these features?

A: A hot topic, for sure. These features are essential and should be a core part of every clinic’s operation. Again, in the post-pandemic era, the more digital the better. Booking a hearing appointment is often the first and most important step to treating hearing loss. It can also be the hardest step for patients to take. That’s why we’ve expanded our partnerships to bring online scheduling to all our Sycle customers, with two great online appointment booking tools.  With Sycle Text & Email Appointment Reminders, clinics can easily reach patients to confirm their appointments, reducing no-shows and cancellations to capitalize on every sales opportunity.

Q:  Sycle’s eDocs is something I’ve heard about from the people using it. Can you tell me a little about what eDocs entails?

A: We are pleased with how well this feature has been received since it was launched several years ago.  Essentially, the eDocs solution provides our customers with the ability to reduce paper consumption and the headache associated with having to store and locate patient files.  eDocs provides customers with an efficient, paperless document storage solution. We are so proud that our customers are embracing more environmentally conscious solutions and going green while at the same time realizing cost savings for their organization.    

Q: When the pandemic first hit, Sycle was extremely responsive in getting several components together geared for teleaudiology. While (unfortunately, in my view) teleaudiology has taken a less prominent place in 2022, I still think it’s a huge part of our future. Would you agree, and how do you see Sycle fitting into the “teleaudiology business ecology” of hearing healthcare?

A: Yes, absolutely, we can confirm that the industry is still learning and adapting, we are excited to take the lead and make further advancements here. The initial goal was to put solutions in place to ensure business continuity throughout the pandemic. Now, it’s more of a question of how to knock down barriers to further enhance capabilities that support the growing need for technology in this arena. As a collective industry, we need to go outside of our mutual comfort zones and think of proactive ways to elevate the customer experience and innovation while promoting financial gains in teleaudiology. This is definitely a top priority for Sycle. We are excited to share our vision of the future soon.

Q:  What are you most excited about for Sycle right now, and also in the next year or two?  

A: We live in incredible times, with customer demands for technology transformation driving innovation at breakneck speeds. As leaders in this space, I’m excited about our focus on the future and on our commitment to innovation. Sycle has over 20 years of experience working with audiologists from single clinics to the world’s largest audiology business providers. This knowledge results in Sycle being able to confidently predict the solutions our valued customers will need to conduct their business now and into the future. We are committed to driving modernization in our industry. Clinics need to be more efficient, to leverage data to improve not only clinic management efficiency, but enhance their patient care. Whether for the front office, back office, or the provider, constantly driving to advance clinic operations by leveraging technology and innovation is core to Sycle’s business. The best is yet to come!