Two well-known group purchasing enterprises, AuDNet Inc and Marcon Hearing Group, have announced their merger into the newly formed AUDNET Hearing Group (AHG). According to the new company, the benefits of the merger to current and future members include lower costs for hearing aids and related products, opportunities to share in ownership, customizable concierge business support services, and membership conferences where the collective talents, voices and resources of members, staff and suppliers are coordinated to effectively promote the role professional care plays in treating hearing concerns.
Marcon is the US industry’s oldest hearing aid buying network, and AuDNet is a nationwide network of independent audiology practices. Both companies are headquartered in the Minneapolis area.
“The need for lowering costs and building a strong consumer-pointed identity for professional hearing care value has never been greater,” said AHG CEO Gregory Frazer, AuD, PhD, in a press statement. “Securing lower costs can only be achieved through a large group buying a large number of hearing aids. With this merger, we have taken a giant leap forward and can now deliver greater value to both our members as well as our manufacturing partners. Building a compelling consumer identity can also only be accomplished through a coordinated nationwide effort. This merger has moved us forward on that front as well.”
According to AHG President Dale Thorstad, the group is aggressively pursuing opportunities to extend their innovative merger tactic beyond these two anchor organizations. “Whether buying direct or through a buying group, all independent practices must recognize that it is essential to leverage their collective buying power as productively as possible,” says Thorstad. “Merging groups into an ever-larger single group maximizes that productivity.
“Lower operating costs increases value,” added Thorstad. “Couple that cost value with nationally recognized professional care excellence and our members secure a valuable path to success.”
David Smriga, MA, who was a founder of AuDNet and now serves as AHG vice-president of corporate communications, has shown in articles and seminars how the percentage of truly independent dispensing professionals has shrunk, but how these professionals still retain a lot of distribution power. He has championed the idea of a group purchasing organization (GPO) for hearing healthcare, so independents can better compete against mass retailers and large chains. In correspondence to Hearing Review, Smriga wrote, “Coming together for a common purpose, especially at the business operations level, offers tactical advantages not available through more traditional national initiatives. At a time when product and price are being leveraged as alternatives to professional care, this form of strategic cooperation is an essential step to building greater patient value and lasting positive consumer awareness and demand for professional care.”
Adam DiPuccio, AuD, a private practice owner and co-chair of the AHG Board of directors observed, “For audiologists, hearing instrument specialists, ENT and medical practices, AHG represents a new era in collective purchasing for the hearing industry. This is a vital business strategy needed to keep independent practices competitive in an environment where cost is being characterized as the focus of a hearing aid purchase, and a justification to bypass important professional care. It’s time that independent businesses unite in a meaningful way to level the cost playing field and advance the professional care message. AHG is a key step in that process.”