Collaboration Case Study
Bringing specialist audiology services to regional New Zealand
Cisco brings specialist audiology care to regional New Zealanders
Triton Hearing is the first private audiology company in the world to offer remote services ranging from hearing tests to rehabilitation services using telehealth technology.
This innovative service, powered by Cisco meeting technology, is making it easy for clients to engage, one-on-one, with qualified audiologists anywhere in the world. Regional New Zealanders, who were previously unable to access specialist care, now have virtual access to specialists from the comfort of over 60 local hearing clinic.
Triton Hearing is part of the Sonova Group, the world’s leading hearing healthcare company. It has a network of 60 clinics across New Zealand and provides a range of vital hearing services, including screening and hearing tests, fistula assessments, hearing aid fittings, hearing aid rehabilitation and more. Despite its size, Triton Hearing faced a number of challenges inherent in the industry; a lack of audiologists to meet the required client demand in regional areas.
“There’s lots of smaller towns across New Zealand that don’t have the same access to healthcare specialists as the cities,” explained Craig Lett, Clinical Development Manager at Triton Hearing, “and getting clinicians to these towns was one of our biggest challenges.
We needed a way to deliver a better level of care to these communities, without sending our already limited number of audiologists on the road.”
After a significant amount of research, Lett and his team designed a brand new model of care using telehealth—where healthcare services are delivered remotely using technologies, such as video conferencing and real-time apps. “Other places like Australia and the United States use telehealth to deliver audiology services,” Lett said, “but we’re the first in the world to develop an end-to-end solution for our clients.”
Introducing state of the art video conferencing, now bringing the best in specialist care to local clinics
Once Lett and his team knew what they wanted to do, it was a case of finding the right technology partner to provide a complete system, including high-quality video and audio on a stable platform. “It was important that clients experienced a consultation that was on par with a face-to-face conversation,” said Lett, “and we also needed to make sure the technology met practice guidelines and achieved positive healthcare outcomes.”
Triton Hearing’s IT provider recommended Cisco for the quality and speed of its meetings technology, as well as its ability to scale as the business grows and changes over time. Triton Hearing worked closely with Cisco to design a solution that allowed a client to arrive at their local clinic but have a full hearing assessment and discussion with our audiologist in Auckland. They would then purchase hearing aids or any other recommended products at the clinic.
Triton Hearing’s IT provider recommended Cisco for the quality and speed of its video conferencing technology, as well as its ability to scale as the business grows and changes over time.
Cisco’s state-of-the-art video conferencing solution was installed at Triton’s Timaru hearing clinic, located almost 160 kilometres from Christchurch, to trial the link between the client and audiologist. Its powerful HD cameras and superior audio experience made it ideal for clinical consultations, particularly for hearing impaired people who rely on clear audio and visual cues, such as lip reading. At the audiologist’s office in Auckland, the Cisco DX80 23-inch touchscreen was installed, selected for its ease of use and ability to connect with a PC or Mac to share content during the consultation.
"That was part of the brief to Cisco: we wanted clients to feel like the audiologist was in the room the whole time."
– James Whittaker, General Manager of Triton Hearing
A hearing nurse was also trained to manage the equipment and provide vital human interaction, including putting the hearing aid on and using a video otoscopy to look into the client’s ears. The information was then sent to the audiologist in real time, allowing them to assess the client’s hearing, talk to the client and make programming changes, just like a face-to-face appointment. “One of the most important parts of the brief to Cisco was that we wanted clients to feel like the audiologist was in the room the whole time,” said Lett.
Generated an additional 20 appointments per week and reduced waiting times in the clinics by up to three weeks.
The solution was a success, however Triton was apprehensive about how clients would react. “Our staff were initially concerned that clients wouldn’t like the concept, but it was business as usual. Clients really embraced it and had no qualms about having a virtual consultation with an audiologist. In fact, they were blown away by the quality of our Cisco solution,” Lett said.
Steve Bethell, a pastoral farmer and a Triton Hearing client, residing in regional New Zealand experienced immediate benefits to the new teleaudiology solution. “To me it was like him (audiologist) being in the same room, distance is no barrier. To be able to be in Timaru speaking with one of New Zealand's best audiologists, is unreal” Bethell said.
The ability to access specialist care for regional patients has addressed inclusivity for hearing loss patients and has improved their overall health and well being.
“I can enjoy life so much more, when I got home here i could hear the birds and I could hear my feet walking on the shingle and I went wow! What have I been missing?” Bethell continued. “I’m finding in public, I can actually hear conversations and i’m part of the conversation, you’ve changed my life and I thank you (Triton Hearing) for that.” he said.
Trition Hearing generated an additional 20 appointments per week and reduced waiting times in the clinics by up to three weeks.
The solutions took 18 months to implement from start to finish, including the research phase and trial in Timaru, yet Triton Hearing saw a return on their investment within just one month of delivering teleaudiology services in one of its high-demand clinics.
“The biggest benefit has been the time and money saved by not sending audiologist out on the road,” said Lett, “allowing the business to improve workflow and make the most of the audiologist’s time; generating an additional 20 appointments per week and reducing waiting times in the clinics by up to three weeks.
Lett continued, “Many clinics didn’t have regular access to an audiologist, so clients were waiting weeks for an appointment. Now we can schedule an appointment that same week. This not only helps us become more efficient, but enhances the level of care we’re providing to our clients.”
"This allows us to improve our workflow and make the most of the audiologist’s time, so we can help more people get their hearing sorted."
– James Whittaker,
General Manager at Triton Hearing
Teleaudiology meets mobile clinics
Triton Hearing plans to roll the technology out to all existing and future clinics as well as launching mobile clinics.
“The next phase is very exciting for us as we plan to take our teleaudiology model on the road when we launch our new mobile clinics across New Zealand,” Lett said. “The mobile clinics will be solely set up to provide teleaudiology services, so we can reach every corner of the country. We’re now working with Cisco to work out how to get mobile coverage to remote regions of New Zealand, to ensure the quality of consultations remains high.”
The team will also establish its first international clinic in a Niue Island hospital in the months ahead. “There are communities in Niue that have never had access to an audiologist, so this is going to have a significant impact on the health of people in these communities.”
"Cisco has given us the freedom to deliver expert care to more people across New Zealand, particularly in regional and remote areas of the country,” Lett said. “It has transformed the way we work and allowed us to re-imagine the future of our business. Whatever innovative service we come up with next, we know Cisco will be able to help us turn our ideas into reality.”
See how it all works with Triton Hearing