This week's American Medical News, an AMA publication, notes that a subsidiary of United Health Care, hi Health Innovations, is offering an online hearing test, which will allow users to order hearing aids without a physician visit.
No surprise that the AMA opposes this move. It's not in the best financial interest of physicians for their patients to be able to get hearing aids without a physician visit. The costs of obtaining a hearing aid this was a estimated to be as much as 3/4 less than comparable devices purchased through conventional channels.
This fits well with some of the bolder ideas from the Connected Health Symposium last month. The new word for me there was "de-skilling," replacing a highly trained professional with a highly automated process.
UHC might not succeed with this venture, especially since trust in the Internet (And high speed access) are higher with a younger demographic that those with a higher rate of hearing loss. But even if this fails, there will be more attempts to replace physicians with hardware and software, and this type of innovation can bring cost saving without sacrificing quality.