The following is a pitch for a new business model to deliver the devices and services required by those with hearing loss. It aims to incorporate the subscription model and worry-free shipping that has been made popular by companies like HelloFresh, Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club and many more.
Twelve Words: Never buy another hearing aid again. Pay for hearing health care instead.
Additional Words: The client begins by visiting their local HearBox audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation and selects the appropriate technology for their needs. They commit to a monthly subscription plan and walk out with a pair of premium devices specifically programmed for their needs and verified with real-ear measurement. They may return for additional follow-up appointments for fine-tuning and counselling if needed, but after that the goal is to have them in the clinic as little as possible. Instead of returning to purchase additional materials, the client receives a curated box of hearing care supplies each month. Batteries, wax guards, domes, cleaning materials, and other accessories are conveniently delivered right to their door in a premium shipping container (the HearBox if you will).
The next step is where things get exciting. Rather than scheduling an appointment and visiting the clinician when the client feels their hearing devices may not be working as well as they did when first fit, they simply long onto their HearBox.com account and request a new pair of devices be shipped to them. The HearBox technicians at the central facility will then use the patient’s fitting information provided by the clinic to fit and verify a pair of devices from the HearBox inventory using the patient’s RECD values and S-REM measures. They are then shipped to the client within 24 hours. When the patient receives these new devices, they then place their current devices into an empty HearBox, affix the included prepaid shipping label, and deposit it into their mailbox. These devices arrive at the central HearBox facility where technicians inspect, refurbish, and repair them. When they are verified to be functioning as well as brand new devices, they return to the HearBox inventory where they will await to be programmed to the needs of the next client who requires them.
That’s the key idea of HearBox – the patient never owns new hearing devices, but they always have access to refreshed devices that function like new.
For Clinicians: This model allows professionals to spend more time getting obtaining detailed hearing results and fitting devices with more care. Rather than waste time replacing receivers, cleaning microphone ports, and other tedious tasks, they can spend more time on the important ones.
For Patients: This model delivers a stress-free option to access the hearing care they need. Rather than worry about booking appointments, travelling to the clinic, and potentially being without their devices for extended periods of time, the client is guaranteed functioning hearing aids within 24 hours of their request and all the supplies they need to keep them functioning.
For Manufacturers: Who already has a network of retail clinics and a centralized location full of trained technicians? You do. This model would work exceptionally well in a corporate chain and would be a great way to add an experience that can’t be matched by independent clinics.
For Independent Clinics: Ignore what I just wrote. This model could work well for you too. Independent clinics could join the HearBox network, accept referrals from the HearBox website, and receive a fee for each HearBox fitting they perform while avoiding the unpaid follow-up appointments associated with typical fittings. This would be a great way to deliver a premium experience for the segment of your client base that seeks it.
What this Business Model Is: It’s the easiest, most convenient way to access the hearing devices need by those with hearing loss and to maintain easy access to functional devices when wear and tear take their toll.
What this Business Model Isn’t: It’s not a rental; its not a lease. At no time is a set of devices permanently designated as the client’s; they’re just subscribing to an all-inclusive service that includes the devices. Think this is ridiculous? You can access a car with a subscription service, so why not hearing devices?
The Footnote: Let’s not spend too much time overthinking the numbers here. Building up a library of devices, employing a team of technicians, and delivering rapid shipping as described here would certainly push the client’s monthly cost up – but I still don’t believe this model would be impossible. There is a significant segment of the population with the means to attain and the demand for a stress-free, hassle-free service that this model offers. But, in all honesty, this whole thing was more of a thought exercise for me than it really was any sort of realistic plan (though I did pitch it for a business model development program and competition). I really do believe that in the face of changing landscapes of hearing health care that new and innovative models of product and service delivery will crop up – ones we haven’t even thought of yet.
The Footnote’s Footnote: If you run with this idea and get massively rich I won’t even be mad as long as I get a tiny piece of the action. Let’s say 15% and I get a cool title like “VP of Innovation.”