Success in the nursing home niche requires a certain sensitivity that John L. Ferrante, MHA-HIS, has meticulously cultivated for the past 25 years. As the owner of Philadelphia-based Hearsay Hearing Centers (HSHC), Ferrante ensures that patients at long-term care facilities receive excellent care—not always an easy task since nursing home residents often have significant physical and mental issues.
Nursing home administrators admired the integrity of Hearsay’s services, ultimately asking Ferrante if additional medical options—beyond audiology—could be added to the menu. It was an intriguing prospect that led to the creation of HSHS-Hearing, Dental & Vision Centers, with locations in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del, and Cherry Hill, NJ.
Offering patients an easy continuity of care has turned out to be a major advantage. “We are almost able to function like a primary care provider,” says Ferrante. “Before, we may have seen patients for just audiology and made a note that they had dental disrepair—but we never knew if they received follow-up. Now if Mrs Smith complains that her glasses are not fitting perfectly, and it’s the dentist who is visiting her, the dentist makes a note and we follow up. It has streamlined matters for the facility and improved quality of care. They make one phone call and we are able to provide all those services.”
Ferrante’s passion for audiology extends to the nuts and bolts side of the hearing aid business with an assembly plant in St Mary’s, Fla, where custom hearing aids are assembled as specified by hearing care professionals. The approach keeps costs down and expedites the ordering process.
Succeeding Within Boundaries
With a sizable majority of all HSHC business devoted to nursing homes, the company has seen that financial resources for patients vary considerably. Patients and their families may naturally gravitate toward more expensive hearing aids, but Ferrante contends that more advanced features are not the answer for every patient. “Too often audiologists and specialists try to encourage hearing aids with too many bells and whistles, instead of assessing hearing needs and selecting the appropriate hearing aid,” he says.
At HSHC, audiologists spend a lot of time educating patients and their families to determine the hearing environment, and they fit hearing aids based on that environment. “Just because it has seven memories, does that suit the hearing environment?” asks Ferrante. “If not, why fit patients with features that are expensive and unnecessary? We let patients try a low, mid, and high level hearing aid. They may not be able to afford the expensive one, but they may be able to live with the modest limitations.”
Life in the nursing home is not easy for many residents. Hearing difficulties only compound problems, making meaningful interactions with family members and nursing staff almost impossible.
Ferrante is able to keep his enthusiasm by improving these difficult circumstances for people in their golden years. “I see the difference when we restore their hearing,” he enthuses. “I see how it increases their quality of life, and this is what has always kept me going.”
The expansion of Medicare guidelines to permit nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to perform and bill for audiology testing has made things more difficult in recent months, says Ferrante. However, he is determined to overcome these challenges through education. “NPs and PAs have no formal training or certification to administer hearing tests,” he laments. “So I find myself spending a lot of my time educating patients, family members, and nursing home staff to understand that hearing care providers should be doing the testing—specifically audiologists. And the fitting of hearing aids is a joint effort between audiologists and hearing aid specialists/dispensers.”
Beyond the audiology realm, the additional dental and vision services ensure that HSHC clinicians can improve several aspects of residents’ health conveniently and cost-effectively. The success of the program has motivated Ferrante to seek expansion, and provide services to more facilities.
Taking the concept to the national level, in a controlled and prudent fashion, is the long-term goal. “I have a full-time liaison who is marketing to potential facilities and making them aware of our services,” explains Ferrante. “We in-service the nursing home staff and perform periodic visits to ensure quality of care. This is ultimately all about patient care, and doing the right things in a challenging environment.”
John L. Ferrante, MHA-HIS
Hearsay Hearing Center
1843 S Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19145