Chicago — The American Medical Association’s online news website, amednews.com, has published a business article that profiles UnitedHealth’s direct to consumer hearing aid business model and the initial reactions by its member physicians.
As HR has previously reported, insurance giant UnitedHealth has entered into the direct-to-consumer hearing aid business with the creation of a new subsidiary, hi HealthInnovations. HR later interviewed the new company’s CEO Lisa Tseng, MD.
Now, the AMA’s business news website has published an overview of hi HealthInnovations and included some reactions by its member physicians.
The article notes that the new business model is designed to “eliminate intermediaries” but quotes UnitedHealth as saying that “intermediaries” does not refer to physicians. (However, the business model appears to indicate that "intermediaries" refers to dispensers and audiologists.)
Nevertheless, otolaryngologists interviewed for the article expressed their concerns about decreasing the quality of hearing health care for patients and the chance for misdiagnosis.
Todd Hillman, MD, a Pittsburgh otolaryngologist, was quoted as saying that if one could safely eliminate a “middleman” such as a physician that this would lower the cost of a hearing aid device. “However, it cannot be done safely on a consistent basis," he said, and added later that improper testing in a non-soundproof room could result in readings that could be off by as much as 30 decibels,
Lisa Tseng, MD, CEO of hi HealthInnovations, also said in the amednews.com’s article that the physician population has the capacity to serve only about 25% of the 36 million people with hearing loss, but made no mention of audiologists and dispensers who currently serve existing populations.
The full article is available on the amednews.com website.