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admin@reconnectnetwork.co.za

Frequent Questions

Frequent Questions

01. Who are the Shareholders/Directors of Reconnect Audiology Network

The shareholders and non-executive directors of the company are the four founding members, Natalie Buttress, Tanya Hanekom, Deon Ceronio and Heidi Allan. The founding members provided the capital to start the Reconnect Audiology Network. The company is ‘Audiology owned’ and the Memorandum of Association ensures that there will never be a non-audiologist shareholder, to support the purpose of its creation. The executive director, (non-shareholder), who is charged with the execution of the company’s day-to-day operations, is Mike Allan. The directors engage in collective decision-making with input from members, to guide the direction of the Network. At this time, the financial model focuses all funds on rebates to audiologists, marketing, and administration of the goals of the collective membership. Recoupment of investment may only be addressed as and when the Network is able to achieve this without compromising the primary aims, namely: the survival and success of the private independent practitioner, and the autonomy of patient-centred care.

02. Information about the outsourced functions of the Network

Mike Allan, a Chartered Accountant, administers and manages the needs of the Network together with his administration team, and other professionals in the legal and business industry, who add specific advice and value. Mike is contracted to the Network and Reconnect Audiology Network (Pty) Ltd pays 1% of collected rebates to cover this administration. Mike’s insight in both business and audiology in South Africa, his industry contacts, and his history in business brings a critical dimension to what we do. Whilst Reconnect Audiology Network is a private company, transparency matters to us. Annual and interim financials will be published to members. The Brand is licensed for use to all members using 50% of the monthly membership fee. Education development is funded using the other 50%. Procurement of any services, assistive financial opportunities, suppliers’ offers, and all education and clinical opportunities are underpinned by autonomous choice. Audiologists who choose to use the Network’s group benefits do so without any punitive coercion. Audiologists are encouraged to use preferred suppliers to enable patients by passing on the value, or improving services, but Audiologists may use any supplier of their choice.

03. What barriers exist to entering as a member? How do you ensure good standards of association? How may someone be asked to leave?

The Network operates in accordance with the HPCSA rules. There is NO DISCRIMINATION OF ANY KIND. The requirements are to be an independent audiologist in private practice who adheres to the ethical rules of the HPCSA and Professional Associations; to be compliant with South African VAT; and to maintain a standard of clinical care for patients, including assuring the Network that the equipment and services available at each practice is in accordance with practice services. Members pledge to meet SANS and HPCSA requirements and demonstrate that they have the necessary equipment to deliver the services offered. These requirements are in the best interests of the patient, and ultimately also serves the Profession. At any time, members can use each other and the Network to improve upon their knowledge and service offering. We aim for UPLIFTMENT THROUGH ASSOCIATION, rather than policing. Any serious complaint against a member will be guided to our professional associations, and if need be, in consultation with the HPCSA. If someone is found to be performing in an unethical manner, a temporary suspension of membership may be engaged until the issue has been resolved. If a member refuses to address the problem after due process, the Reconnect Audiology Network, as a private enterprise, may terminate the membership of that person. We focus our resources on clinician development, including providing members with ethics, business, and clinical webinars.

04. Tell me about the brand and its relationship to other commercial enterprises?

We are using common branding to link independent audiologists as just that, “independent”, across the nation. Therefore, we are not a franchise and we are not rebranding hearing aids. To create the security for the future use of this name in ourindustry, the four shareholders have done two things: 1. We are purchasing 25% of the brand trademark, RECONNECT. 2. The brand trademark “RECONNECT” is licensed for 25 years, and is used exclusively with the names Audiology Network, and is not financially or legally tied to any other company using the trademark. Using this branding has allowed rapid deployment of the model, allowing us to be immediately effective and compete in an arena where many other brands are corporate competitors. We LOVE the name. It is extremely meaningful and memorable, which is of significant benefit to all members as patients become familiar with what it stands for, and members, feel that we are #BetterTogether

05. What is the meaning behind freedom and autonomy in Audiology Practice?

The definition of an autonomous private audiology practice is one that is owned by an individual or other acceptable business structure of audiologists, that does not belong to a franchise or belong to a corporate group; does not have an exclusive or vertical buying relationship with any one supplier; and can demonstrate transparency of choice with their patients. They cannot be answerable, tacitly, or expressly, to any non-audiologist body or individual. The Reconnect Audiology Network reserves the right to review each membership application. The Network however, does not interfere in any way, in your management of, and with your patient. Our first goal is to support the continued existence of independent practices in audiology, which in turn ensures that patient’s rights are upheld, regarding CHOICE and transparency of treatment. Educating patients about audiologists and their own hearing healthcare is critical. We will also include as many ethical and supportive industry participants, as are willing, to offer choice to our members and our patients. However, we exclude companies who engage in exclusive vertical distribution models, or dispense directly to the public, as this would be counterintuitive to the survival of independent audiology and the ideals for which it stands. The Network does not ask you to change any existing relationship or instrument preference you may have for any patient. You may belong to the Network regardless of your choices of device purchases. The cornerstone of your autonomy is your independence to fit provide rehabilitation services and products that are based on patient needs. We are also not privy to any personal arrangements that you may share with any supplier. Manufacturers who choose to participate do so because they believe that autonomous audiologists are important and believe that our model will assist in educating patients and making hearing healthcare more accessible and affordable.

06. How does the financial model work? I want to know more about the financials in general of the Reconnect Audiology Network

Whilst Reconnect Audiology Network (Pty) Ltd is a private company, annual financial statements will be shared with members in the interest of transparency. We are not a buying group or a franchise, but a negotiating body that uses the practice member fee and negotiated funds to support the education of the public about Audiology and Audiologists, through marketing engagement. We raise awareness of the benefits of managing communication problems, through evidence-based practice, choice, empowerment, and autonomy. Remaining funds are utilised towards making rehabilitative tools more universally accessible. The rules of the Reconnect Audiology Network (PTY) Ltd are therefore compliant with the expected professional code of conduct. If you require personalised calculations to see if your practice would benefit from our model, please contact us directly and our financial officer will confidentially assist you with a practice specific assessment. Our directors NEVER have access to any audiologists’ practice specific data.

07. About relationships with external bodies (Professional Associations, HPCSA), future NHI

It is our stated intention to work within the ethical guidelines of all the professional bodies and the HPCSA. We are observant of legislation and conform to the relevant HPCSA guidelines. Professional Associations such as the SAAA and SASLHA, represent a broader group of professionals, including but not limited to corporate audiologists, public sector, and education. Our mandate is to create transparent arrangements and contracts to specifically benefit the independent private practitioner, which is not something that can be undertaken by a Professional Association. The Network aims to provide a united vehicle for any willing independent, private audiologist to work together and grow the profession, and remove relationship barriers in the profession. Professional Association membership should be maintained. The Reconnect Audiology Network will always remain a committed participant, engaging in, and cooperating with, the vision of our Associations.

08. Information about the process of marketing, the referrals, and public education

In terms of marketing spend, we spend 29% (2/7) of our total income on marketing. This is vastly more than any other manufacturer or entity in South Africa. The collective brain of all role players in the industry, as well as outsourced experts in media communication, continue to dynamically steer the medium of communication that would most effectively reach the public. Referrals from our national and digital marketing are patient-selected and related to the geography of your listing.

09. About pricing in the Network

Audiologists all charge different prices for the services and devices across the country. This is correct, due to different cost bases in the competitive environment in which we operate, and the Network will never issue indicative pricing as this would flout anti-competitive legislation. Any negotiated rebates that are achieved by the Network, should be passed on to patients to narrow the gap between the price of a hearing aid at any large retailer. Independent audiologists seek to benefit our patients through reduced costs or increased availability of best practice services. We, as independent audiologists offer a personalised level of care that may justify cost differences (from retailers). It is our responsibility to educate the public about best practice standards shared by members, while costs are individualised to the specific practice, patient and treatment plan.

10. Questions about why being together makes a difference.

Working together towards the collective ideals of independent practice, matters. The Network honours your brand and will add to it. The Network, by being national and having certain standards and protocols, assures patients that your practice belongs to a group that values reputable and professional practice. The Network’s national marketing campaigns promote us all, creating a much larger impact, nationally, yet does not prevent you from ethically promoting your own practice. The outcome for small independent practices is not as good as it could be, so we add value, reduce risk and improve the viability of being ‘yourself’. We think it brings us together, helps us share ideas, and equipment. We would like every practice owner who runs an independent professional practice to join us. The emergence of retail into audiology is inevitable and will be good for patients, however it is likely to impact the sustainability of smaller businesses. We are #bettertogether.

11. About resource documents provided by the Network

Members of the Network will have access to proforma documentation to use, created, refined, and developed by the collective. All documents are for your use but must be modified to reflect your own context. Disclaimer: The Network is not liable for the use of any document in the resource library, as that is an Audiologist’s own professional responsibility.

12. Compliments and enthusiasm

• You guys are superstars! Compliments and enthusiasm

• Wow! It is an amazing concept!! Thank you for all the hard work that the four of you have put in. For R800.00 p m it is the cheapest advertising that I can access. I am impressed.

• Well done on developing this. Your time efforts and knowledge invested is seen and appreciated

• Principle is sound and is something that is long overdue for the profession. The how is the key

13. What excites you most about the Network?

Comment as received

• Possibility to negotiate discounts with suppliers. To advertise nationally to counter groups like ***Other corporates’*** collective bargaining power

• The support that we can give one another • The opportunity to make hearing aids more affordable for patients

• I commend you all for your efforts and for standing up and doing something about the threats that we all have been worried about! I would hope that the kind of protection a Network offers against threats like preferred providers from medical aids etc. would prove to be a reality. I am also excited about the further opportunity for Audiologists to truly connect – our field is so small and we really do need each other!

• An opportunity to be associated with a Network of like minded audiologists to promote ethical professional practice for the benefit of our patients

• I am excited about the mentorship and marketing potential. Also potential of national footprint • the sense of community

• The growth of Audiology by educating the public, which in turn will mean growth in my practice.

• Inclusivity and opportunity to Network with colleagues

• Joint advertising and marketing opportunities

• The Advertising and support from like minded audiologists • Community. National marketing

• The marketing! I think this will also address the stigma that clings to “hearing aids”. The rebate will be wonderful to assist patients who cannot afford hearing aids – which I see more of every year.

• Collaboration with other audiologists, marketing assistance, rebates

• collaboration, more awareness and marketing

• A recognizable brand, marketing that I don’t have to spend time or extra money on and awareness of audiology

• Collective power to strengthen my position as private audiologist in SA.

• The collective bargaining that you can ensure.

• I think it is important that we stand together and grow the profession as a whole. • Ethic standards

• The opportunity to connect with other audiologists.

• Specifically for Independent practice, the power we have in numbers • Being part of a group with set standards, sharing knowledge and expertise.

• The group structure

• Will work well with NHS coming in

• Ensuring standard of care to patients • Support and Marketing

• THE FACT THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO STAND TOGETHER • The opportunity to share resources and ideas

• Shared Marketing, Rebates to be passed onto patients

• The support & community.

• National awareness and marketing • Potential for more referrals

• Marketing

• Marketing and awareness of the profession to the public

• The connections

• I think the access to learning, webinars, mentoring and possible workshops will be a highlight for me.

• No, well done!

• Mobile App

• I think the practicalities and logistics of how this will be put into practice need to be discussed. I will look on the website for more info.

• How the different aspects will be managed going forward i.e. who will take charge of marketing etc.

• Thank you for your time and effort

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