What I have learned
“It provides confidence and convenience for the patients”
Director and optometrist at Davies and Jones Optometrists, Andrew Hobby, and practice director at Malmo Hearing Ltd, Mal Johnston, discuss introducing audiology services
Why did you decide to introduce audiology services at your practice?
Andrew Hobby (AH): We had extended the practice to add an extra consulting room by buying and knocking through into the building next door. This left us with spare capacity upstairs. We considered various options for extended services such as a chiropractor or chiropodist. However, audiology seemed a much more logical fit, especially with all the low vision services that we provide. The audiology service was busy right from the beginning and it wasn’t long before Malmo Hearing Ltd was providing hearing clinics in three of our six practices.
What made Malmo Hearing Ltd the right partner for your practice?
AH: Davies and Jones Optometrists and Malmo Hearing Ltd have so much in common. We are both independent, family run enterprises, with a strong emphasis on putting our patients first and on long term care.
It is such a natural fit, we should have done it years earlier. There is a fair amount of cross pollination such as new patients, who initially attended for a hearing appointment and will often go on to book an eye examination, as well as the other way around. Patients are delighted to be able to have both appointments completed during the one visit.
It is such a natural fit, we should have done it years earlier
Why is it important to provide eye health and audiology services in one place for patients?
AH: Sadly, the ageing process often reduces mobility as well as sight and hearing. Having both services together makes life just a little easier for these patients. Of course, we both provide domiciliary visits as well.
How have you trained practice staff on the benefits of providing these services to patients?
AH: We have been part of the Low Vision Service Wales since its inception at the start of the century. Awareness of how patients with hearing problems are particularly dependent on their sight has been a key part of reaccreditation for the scheme from the beginning, so adding the audiology services was just a natural progression.
How did the partnership with Davies and Jones Optometrists happen?
Mal Johnston (MJ): I used to work for two of the main national hearing aid retailers in the UK. They were very good at selling the product but not so good at looking after patients afterwards. In 2007, I decided to launch my own independent hearing health practice in the town where I live, with the goal of offering not just superior quality products but the ongoing aftercare that hearing aid users need.
I also wanted to diversify our services to offer additional hearing health services and become a one-stop-shop for all prospective clients. I realised pretty quickly that I could bring this service to other areas locally around South Wales. All I needed to do was to partner with a family owned optical practice to provide this service. I also wanted these clinics to be in areas where the national companies would not consider, so I would become the expert and the go-to company for hearing services in that local area. I approached Davies and Jones Optometrists, who was willing to give this a try.
What made Davies and Jones Optometrists the right partner for Malmo Hearing Ltd?
MJ: Davies and Jones Optometrists has the same ethos and business model as Malmo Hearing Ltd. It also has to compete with the big national chains and other local competition. I felt it would add something to their business model and give them an advantage over their own competitors. They are a longstanding family owned business and I felt they would understand hearing health. This has proved to be correct.
All I needed to do was to partner with a family owned optical practice to provide this service
How has the partnership developed over the years?
MJ: It has become an essential component of our business. This is due to the excellent staff at Davies and Jones Optometrists, who believe that the service we provide through our partnership adds value for them. We now regularly attend three of their practices around South Wales, but our hearing service is offered to all patients at their other three practices too.
What have you learned about partnering with another healthcare provider?
MJ: The need to maintain and improve standards and effectiveness at all times. To realise that when Malmo is in attendance at a Davies and Jones practice, we are seeing Davies and Jones customers so the standard of service we provide cannot be less than our partner. We have worked well together.
Why do optometry and audiology complement each other?
MJ: Light waves and sound waves. Even one of the assessments we carry out in audiology is similar to optometry – the fields test. Patients who use their local optician do so because they want important extras that a national chain do not have the time to provide. It is logical that the optical patients of Davies and Jones would respond in a similar manner to hearing health services. It provides confidence and convenience for the patients.