Modern Aesthetics | Editorial Board Forum: Can We Avoid The Commoditization Of Aesthetic Medicine?
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Editorial Board Forum: Can We Avoid The Commoditization Of Aesthetic Medicine?

Leaders in the field of aesthetics tell how they respond to non-core competition, the surge of price negotiating patients, and the challenges of branding oneself as an expert.

With consumers asking how much you charge per unit or vile, how do aesthetic physicians position themselves to not become a commodity?

Gregory Buford, MD: The commoditization of elective medical services is rapidly becoming an issue that all of us as core aesthetic providers address on a daily basis. Many clients are coming in challenging our fee structures and commenting that they can get coupons for cheaper services down the road and are often going so far as to attempt negotiation of our fees directly with us.

To avoid becoming the next commoditization casualty, we need to carefully approach how we describe and promote our services as well as what these services actually include. If we merely present our fees on a per unit basis, we risk getting compared to all other per unit pricing structures. Instead, we need to talk about what our services really include as well as the training and expertise we accomplished along the way. We simply cannot be afraid to compare our skill sets against those of the “mall injector.” We have to make sure that our patients are actually educated as to why there is a difference in price and what they are getting for that difference.

Vivian Bucay, MD: It is important that we credential ourselves as experts—the doctors who train other doctors, if you will. Sitting face-to-face with the patient during the initial consultation is crucial in establishing trust and rapport as we develop an individualized treatment plan tailored for that patient’s specific needs and goals.

Brooke A. Jackson, MD: I don’t quote prices over the phone and I charge a cosmetic consulation fee, a portion of which goes toward the procedure. I find this minimizes the doctor shoppers.

How do aesthetic physicians incorporate into their fees and get consumers to understand the value added of their special training?

Dr. Bucay: Again, we must convey the message that we are the experts, and what we sell is a service, not a product. The products are our tools—what we sell is a concept and a service.

There will always be bargain hunters, and that is a market not worth pursuing, because there will always be someone out there offering lower prices. We must continue to brand ourselves as experts in aesthetics whose mission is to ensure the best possible care for our patients. It is vital that one’s staff make sure that the patient understands our level of training, knowledge, and skills.

Dr. Jackson: This would be a great marketing campaign for our professional societies to undertake!

Dr. Buford: One way that I personally educate both established as well as potential clients is through my on-site blog. By writing on a consistent basis, I have established a substantial following of consumers potentially interested in my services. And by creating consistency in my posts, I have developed an online voice along with credibility among these consumers. And this forum has enabled me to educate them on this topic and many more in a highly effective manner.

How do you respond when a patient says, “But I can get it for less at the medispa down the street?” or “But it only took you 20 minutes!”?

Dr. Bucay: I have no reservation in asking the patient, “If price is your primary concern, then why did you come to me for treatment?” With regards to the second question concerning the time involved, I usually say something to the effect of: “It’s taken me 12 years of training and 21 years in practice to take care of your needs in the time required for your treatment.”

Dr. Buford: As elective providers, we need to not be afraid to promote our background and our expertise to potential clients. This education, when accomplished in a proactive and productive manner, can be the most effective strategy for avoiding the cycle of commoditization and price-warring

Dr. Jackson: The quick answer is: You are paying for my expertise and training, not my time.