By Sean Kelishadi, MD
In a world where women are often made to feel like their choices over their bodies are constantly challenged, having control over aspects of their physical appearance can feel vital. At the same time, women seeking plastic surgery may have mixed emotions.
After years of sitting in on conversations stigmatizing women with plastic surgery, they may have internalized some negativity. In a perfect world, we would all feel happy with our bodies exactly the way they are, but we don’t live in that world, and the reality is that we are often judged by our appearance first and foremost. Enhancing our appearance for greater confidence and comfort in our skin offers autonomy over ourselves in a way that few other experiences can provide.
As plastic surgeons, we play a crucial role in a woman’s journey to self-confidence and self-discovery. So, is your practice set up in a way that supports and encourages this journey? These seven strategies will help you make small changes to your practice that will deliver a more comfortable, satisfying patient experience.
Every patient’s experience with your practice begins at your website. What impression does your website create? Every detail—from your branding, to the writing, to the ease of navigation—speaks volumes about who you are and what you offer. Sometimes, in ways you don’t intend.
Strategy 1: Provide a digital patient journey.
Today’s patients prefer the convenience of online scheduling. They also expect to get answers to their questions 24/7. A live chatbot tool can assist and free up your front desk staff to handle more pressing issues. Add a blog to your website with well-written and informative content about you, your team, and the procedures you offer to build familiarity and help patients feel comfortable before they even set foot in your office.
Strategy 2: Provide soft skills training to your staff.
Once a patient arrives at your office, what kind of first impression do they receive? Your staff should be friendly and attentive, and your waiting room should be comfortable and inviting. Put your patients at ease to feel safe and confident having potentially difficult conversations with you. Think about setting up occasional secret shoppers to make sure the experience you are providing is up to par.
Strategy 3: Choose your plastic surgery patients carefully.
Not every potential patient is a good candidate for plastic surgery, so a good screening system is critical. Surgery is not the right choice for a patient with an unhealthy mental state, such as body dysmorphia. If a patient cannot accurately assess the appearance of their body, no surgery in the world will satisfy them. Set patients up for success, both before and after surgery, and refer patients who need help to a qualified mental health practitioner.
Strategy 4: Be transparent about your plastic surgery-related credentials.
Of course, your patients should be screening you as well. Provide information on your website, and at your practice so they know they are seeing a qualified board-certified plastic surgeon and that your team has all the necessary credentials.
Strategy 5: Offer in-house financing options.
Any obstacle could stop a patient’s journey in its tracks. In-house financing eliminates one of the most common, especially today when many are worried about layoffs and the price of consumer goods. In many cases, financing makes surgery accessible, and removing money worries allows your patients to focus on what’s important after surgery—healing and enjoying their new confidence.
At my office, we offer PatientFi, which gives our patients the option of smaller monthly payments, whether they’ve chosen a minor enhancement, like Botox, or a complete Mommy Makeover.
Strategy 6: Keep lines of communication open.
Elevate your patients’ confidence in you by sending patients home after surgery with your personal phone number so they can reach you immediately in case of an emergency. Most won’t use it, but knowing they can reach you provides a strong sense of security. You might be feeling nervous about patients having your number, but if you feel a patient would abuse this trust, then you shouldn’t be performing an elective surgical procedure on them.
Strategy 7: Guarantee your plastic surgery services.
A guarantee speaks volumes about your confidence in your skill, but you must be smart in how it’s presented and stated. At my practice, we offer our compliant patients a five-year guarantee on their breast augmentation procedures, provided they haven’t gained or lost over 15 pounds since their surgery. If they want to enhance their results, we will waive our surgeon’s fees to let them know that our goal is their complete satisfaction. If an existing patient with a proper work-up wants to remove their implants, we will do so without charging a surgeon’s fee.
Removing the risk from your patients in this way is empowering and gives them confidence in their decision to have you perform their surgery. And research shows that a better mental state before surgery is associated with better recovery and healing.
Adopting these strategies at your practice will enhance your patients’ experiences and empower them to choose how they want to present themselves to the world.
Sean Kelishadi, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon based out of Newport Beach, Calif., and currently serves as the president of SSK Plastic Surgery. He earned his medical degree at the University of Tennessee-Memphis College of Medicine.