So You Want to Be a Consulting Audiologist?
Dr. Kim Cavitt, AuD is the founder and owner of Audiology Resources, Inc., based in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Audiology from Indiana University in 1991 and her Au.D. from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (Salus University) in 2005. She spent nine years as a clinical audiologist and preceptor at The Ohio State University and Northwestern University and two years as the Director of Professional Relations at HearPO. Throughout her career, Dr. Cavitt has been actively involved in issues related to all aspects of audiology practice operations and management, coding, billing, third-party reimbursement and managed care issues. She has written numerous articles, provided many web seminars, training events, and given presentations at both the state and national level on these topics.
Media Committee member Samantha Ramirez manages the “So You Want to be a __ Audiologist?” article series. Samantha is currently a 2nd year AuD graduate student at Wayne State University. She also serves as the student representative for the AAA Membership Committee. Her audiological interests include pediatric early identification and intervention, and audiology student development and success.
SR: When and how did you decide you wanted to take on a consultant role?
Dr. Cavitt: During the summer of my master’s program, I had the opportunity to do a 10 week internship at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, OH. After I graduated, they created a position for me. My time at OSU gave me many opportunities for training in practice management and audiology. I had amazing mentors, both on the business and clinical sides. I liked the challenge. I was young and working 60-70 hours a week because I was seeing patients and in charge of accounts receivable and clinical operations. I was lucky to be a part of a team that was very hard working, open, and involved in audiology. Consulting was a natural byproduct of that. I wanted to be able to share my skill set beyond my employer and help audiologists achieve their practice goals.
SR: What a journey! For students who don’t really know what an audiology consultant does, can you describe your typical work day?
Dr. Cavitt: That varies day to day, but overall, I work with universities, private practices, non-profit organizations, and hospitals on practice operations, billing and reimbursement and compliance. The goal is to help them identify how they can be profitable while being productive and compliant. I’m taking calls, answering emails, developing business plans, and business analysis. I do many bootcamps, trainings, and web seminars on practice management, coding, and reimbursement.
SR: What qualities does a consultant have to have?
Dr. Cavitt: You have to be very organized, I am very type A. You also have to be leader and take initiative. You have to be reliable and trustworthy. You have to commit to lifelong learning. In my position, I have to be able to say “no.” You have to know your worth and be paid for your time.
SR: What do you like the most about being an audiology consultant?
Dr. Cavitt: I love the flexibility. Some days, I am working from home in my pajamas. I can go on vacation if I want, take time off if I want, and I try to schedule most of my business when I want. In terms of my own business, I can stand on principal. My mentors were always strong proponents of that. Everything I do and suggest to my clients is justified with evidence-based practice, documentation, or business rationale.
SR: Now what are some challenges you face as an audiology consultant?
Dr. Cavitt: Although I enjoy doing it, teaching and training can be challenging. Trying to get my clients to not take the easy way out and to motivate people to NOT make the easy choice—that's challenging.
SR: You wear many hats, what other interprofessional roles do you play?
Dr. Cavitt: I am an Adjunct Lecturer for the AuD program at Northwestern University. I am the immediate Past President of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA). I am a current member of the State of Illinois Speech Pathology and Audiology Licensure Board. I serve as Vice President of Government Affairs for the Illinois Academy of Audiology. I am one of the founding members of the Audiology Quality Consortium. I am a contributing editor to AudiologyOnline.
SR: You are a busy person, what is your advice for students who are interested in consulting?
Dr. Cavitt: Learn as much as you can and advocate for yourself. Surround yourself with great mentors and colleagues you can turn to for guidance. Know your value, no matter what your role is—be a leader. Always be willing to learn and lead and let the chips fall where they may. I have made massive costly mistakes and learned from them. Always be willing to take responsibility for your choices. The best learning experiences are the ones you blew.
SR: That is great advice. Any other advice for students?
Dr. Cavitt: If you're not changing you're standing still, always grow. Be innovative, but be also patient-centric. I tell my Northwestern students this all the time: don't be a button pusher. We need to break that cycle which means we need to push new initiatives and stop being complacent and apathetic. Students invest so much time and finances to obtain an AuD, so you owe it to yourselves to keep the profession moving forward. Let’s continue to foster new leaders.
SR: What would you would like students to know about coding and reimbursement?
Dr. Cavitt: Simply, learn how to do it! About half of AuD programs, do not offer any classes on marketing, practice, advocacy, government regulations, insurance, or contracting. These all directly affect audiology and how you practice everyday, so it is really important to learn about coding and reimbursement.
SR: What do you think needs to happen within our field to have higher reimbursement rates for our services?
Dr. Cavitt: It starts with a unified voice and getting rid of disconnects within audiology. It is about putting the profession and patients above the association. Public awareness, advocacy, and changes in legislation both at the state and federal level are key.