PhD, Head of Audiological Science,
National Acoustic Laboratories,
PhD, Assistant Professor,
The School of Communication Sciences and Disorders,
Faculty of Health Sciences, Western University;
National Centre for Audiology,
Western University, Canada.
AuD, PhD,Assistant Professor,
Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences,
University of Minnesota, USA.
We are delighted to guest-edit this collaboration that includes leading international hearing researchers who discuss some of the recent developments in connected hearing healthcare. But what exactly do we mean by the umbrella term ‘connected health’? Connected health includes all aspects of telehealth, ehealth and mhealth, and refers to a conceptual model for the remote delivery and management of healthcare. Devices, services or interventions are designed around the patient’s needs and health-related data are shared in a way that the patient can receive care in a proactive, personalised and efficient manner. All stakeholders in the process are ‘connected’ by means of sharing and presentation of information about the patient through smarter use of data, devices, communication platforms, and people.
Commonly cited subcomponents of connected hearing healthcare include eAudiology and tele-audiology and, to minimise confusion in the terminology, we propose connected hearing healthcare is used to encompass not only these terms, but also hearing healthcare delivered by telehealth, ehealth and mhealth. Connected hearing healthcare offers the potential to both improve access to hearing services and increase the quality of care provided via the use of patient-centred, innovative methods.
With the ubiquitous use of new and emerging technologies, the time is right to bring together some of the leading researchers to highlight how connected health can transform the delivery of hearing healthcare. Views and perspectives are offered from four continents (South Africa, North America, Europe and Australia) to provide an international perspective. DeWet Swanepoel considers the opportunity and innovative ways in which connected technologies are being used to improve decentralised access to hearing healthcare in high as well as low- and middle-income countries. Brent Edwards discusses the hot topic of how both conventional and over-the-counter service delivery models can meet the needs of individuals based not only on the technology but on their individual preferences. Melanie Ferguson highlights the potential for mhealth technologies to empower individuals with hearing loss by enabling greater user-control of both their devices and access to essential hearing-related knowledge. Barbra Timmer highlights the future of using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to capture real-time patient responses in the real-world. Last but definitely not least, Evelyn Davies-Venn and Danielle Glista discuss the promise of connected hearing healthcare and the factors to consider when implementing this form of service delivery.
These contributors highlight emerging innovations that are positioned to improve access to hearing healthcare within global, as well as local, contexts. Successful implementation of connected hearing healthcare is likely to be driven by engaging all key stakeholders but with patients and healthcare professionals front and centre.
To quote Matt Mullenbeg, the developer of WordPress “technology works best when it brings people together”.