Do You Offer a Discount?

During my time at Mayo Clinic (both as a student and employee), I would occasionally be in the Operating Room for cochlear implant surgeries.  No, I was not completing any surgical component. Instead, it was my job to test the implant device prior to the surgical site being stitched closed.  When the surgeon and anesthesiologist meet with the patient prior to the procedure, I never heard a patient ask “Do you offer a discount?” 

While I was not present at all meetings prior to a surgery, or at the initial pre-op appointment days before the operation, the physicians never mentioned this question during our team meeting about each patient.  So, why is this question so common in audiology private practices?

Designer Audiology was founded with an unbundled pricing model. Simply put, only pay for what you need, when you need.  This model mimics medicine: you and/or your insurance company pays the provider for services at the time they are rendered.  Charges are not paid for appointments that you might need in 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year in the future.  Some individuals require more appointments, services, and expertise than others.  This model is utilized for primary care appointments, physical therapy, surgery, audiologic (hearing) testing, and vestibular (dizziness) testing. 

At some time in the past, bundled costs became “normal” for hearing aid purchases across most of the industry.  The mark-up on the hearing aid device includes the provider’s fitting services, expertise, and follow-up services for a set period of time (e.g. 1 year, 3 years, a lifetime!), regardless of whether or not you need it.  Those who need the services have pre-paid for them.  Individuals who did not need the services have overpaid so others could have access to the provider at “no charge.”  The few individuals that need more than the “average” number of appointments have been subsidized by those who did not return. 

This is unfair! If you only need 2 visits a year, should you be charged an extra $800 to off-set the cost of the person needs 6 visits a year?  Do mid-level technology hearing aids really cost $4400 for a pair?  Are providers working for free?  Is rent due every month regardless of the number of hearing aids sold?

Unbundled pricing answers all of these questions. Individuals who need more time, appointments, and expertise pay for those services; those who do not save money.  If a person knows they may need more than “average,” a Service Plan can be purchased for 1-year of hearing aid visits.  Amplification costs are separated from the cost of running a business/the provider’s time (e.g. rent, utilities, licensure, education, etc.) showing that the device itself is not as expensive as often noted. 

The process of obtaining and purchasing hearing aids should not be a different pricing model than the rest of medicine, and/or audiologic diagnostic services.  All services have an associated cost, due at the time they are rendered.  Pricing should be transparent, even posted on websites, to allow individuals to make informed decisions about their provider of choice.  Designer Audiology does all of this.  So, the next time one asks about a discount, think about what is being asked: Will you work less than you’re worth? Will your rent wait another week to make up the different in cost? Are you charging an enormous amount on devices and able to give a discount to those who ask and take advantage of those who don’t ask? Will you charge someone else twice as much as me, so I pay less?