Celebrating 30 Years of Helping People Hear Better
Throughout major industry changes like third party payers and over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, Lemme Audiology Associates has stayed committed to delivering high quality patient care and driving their business forward. Learn how owner Karen Lemme, Au.D., has managed to achieve success in hearing healthcare for 30 years in our latest member spotlight.
“Continue to try to provide the best service you can, because there are always people out there looking for quality service.”
Q&A with Karen Lemme, Au.D. and owner of Lemme Audiology Associates
1How does it feel to celebrate 30 years of helping people hear better?
It’s exciting to be in business for 30 years. We’ve seen a lot of industry change, but we’re very excited about the future. We’re proud that we’ve been around and continue our services to help people hear better in our community.
2What are some of your proudest accomplishments as a practice?
At Lemme Audiology, we’re very proud of being around for this long and becoming well known in the community. We have won “Hometown Favorite” seven years in a row, which says a lot about how the community sees us. We’re proud to have a good reputation and to be able to help people. Another accomplishment has been our community outreach. We’ve looped our local theater to help people hear better and enjoy the arts more. We’ve also grown to be a place where people can come for vestibular disorders, and we have gone from one provider to having four audiologists and multiple staff members.
3How do you ensure you maintain the same excellent quality of care year after year?
We work to make sure that all of our providers are providing the same level of care by continuing education with the audiologists and communicating what our expectations are. Everyone is following all the best practices so that our patients are getting the best care and the best service. We communicate with the staff members to make sure that we’re all on the same page and we’re all providing the same level of quality care.
4What are some strategies you’ve implemented throughout the years that have led to your success?
We have worked to stay ahead of the curve. As the industry changes, we have implemented more services to be even more comprehensive. We added vestibular testing and tinnitus treatment to meet the needs of more people. We’ve also worked with CQ Partners for many years, and they’ve helped to grow our practice. We work with them to do staff trainings on a regular basis and implement staff meetings to help us communicate.
5How has your outlook on the hearing healthcare industry changed over the last 30 years?
The industry has changed a lot since I started, especially in how we need to market to people. Over-the-counter hearing aids have also had some impact on our industry. The biggest changes, however, are third party payers and the devaluation of our services. We work very hard to try to be sure that people understand that service is an important component of what we provide, and we continue to provide that best level of care for them.
6What is an example of an obstacle you’ve had to overcome in the past 30 years?
The increase in third party payers has been a big obstacle. Sometimes staffing has been an obstacle for us as well. At a certain point, we were scheduling patients far out for their appointments because we needed more staff. We live in a rural area and we were in need of more audiologists, but in spite of that we’ve been able to now gain the staff that we need. We also have access to some audiologists hopefully coming on board in the future, but that was originally a big obstacle for us.
7How do you go about handling major industry changes like managed care and OTC?
We try to handle changes by being prepared for them. CQ Partners has helped us to think ahead for over-the-counter hearing aids. We knew they were coming, so we did a few different things. We felt that that OTC hearing aids and managed care might impact our business, so we started adding other services that would help to supplement the income we might lose. We were prepared and set up to deal with patients who would come in with OTC hearing aids and hearing aids that they purchased somewhere else. We set up an unbundled pricing and set our hourly rate. We knew what our break-even rates were. We could then offer services to patients who didn’t actually purchase hearing aids through our office. Then we try to stay ahead and offer them services that we know that they need and they might not get somewhere else, particularly with over the counter or online hearing aids that they may be ordering. We’re trying to be there for patients if they need us.
8How has CQ Partners contributed to your long-lasting success?
I’ve been with CQ Partners for 26 years. They were a big part of our success because they taught us how to look at the business. They help us monitor our key performance indicators to keep an eye on what was happening, what we might need to change, to grow or to correct if we had an issue. They really helped us to grow the business and then also helped to look ahead and keep us informed of changes that were coming and what we could possibly do to be prepared for those changes.
9What is your biggest piece of advice for a practice looking to thrive long-term?
My advice to people who want to be around for a while is that you have to be willing to change. I recommend people utilize CQ Partners to have someone in the industry and knows what’s happening so they can guide you. There are things that we don’t learn in school that they have helped us to know. Also, continue to try to provide the best service you can, because there are always people out there looking for quality service. There are going to be discount plans, over-the-counter devices, big chain stores that may be lower in price, but a lot of people are looking for quality of care. If you can continue to provide that quality of care that we are, there will always be people who seek you out and come to you for service. The other piece of that is showing your community and showing your patients that you provide that high level of service. When you do that, you see a lot of word-of-mouth recommendations. We get people who come in because someone has told them that Lemme Audiology is where you should go. They’ve had that great experience with us, and they may have had a bad experience somewhere else. Patients are more than willing to talk about both the good and the bad, but hopefully the good will send people to us. When patients help advertise for you, it builds awareness within the community.