As part of my research for an article that will appear in the June 2009 issue of PSP, I asked several physicians the following question: "In terms of your practice, what have you learned from the recession, and how will you apply what you've learned to improve or enhance or change your business practices as the economy recovers?"

J. Kevin Duplechain, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon based in Lafayette, La, and recently the subject of a PSP cover story, responds:

The recession has allowed us to closely focus on what we do every day.  The cosmetic business in our economy is good and although the very high level procedures such as total facial rejuvenation have slowed slightly, patients still want the chance to look their best.  Currently they are opting for procedures that are a little less invasive because of downtime.  I think everyone values their job right now and so time off needs to be minimized and predictable.  

I have also increased the number of patients that I see on a daily basis.  Rather than having a patient who calls in for an injectable and put them on for a regular appointment in a month we try to get them in sooner.  A month may just be too long for a new patient to wait these days.  We have actually changed the way the nurses work when I see patients.  I had 2 nurses working with me and one nurse who answered phones etc.  With the increase in number of patients we have all three nurses working with patients on days when I am in.  I think patients are still wanting high level of service when they see a plastic surgeon and having more manpower available does that.  They can spend more time establishing a relationship, and I can see a few more people each day.  I have also starting liposuction.  We had planned to do this when we moved into the office, and this added service has definitely increased patient  traffic.

We have looked at advertising cost and what works.  I think right now internet seems to be the best, along with internal marketing with the video loops Candace Crowe created for me.  The internal marketing helps spark interest.  With so much fluctuations in the economy and no real quick end in sight, I think these things will help us prosper during this period of time.  I am definitely not trying to hold on but to offer things to patients in a way that will keep them coming back, when things do get better.