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How to Build an Aesthetic Practice in a Busy Office Setting
A few simple strategies can help raise awareness of cosmetic service offerings.
By: Paul B. Johnson, MD
As oculoplastic surgeons, many of us build our reconstructive practices first with the hopes of gradually growing into a more aesthetic practice. In a busy office setting, this can be challenging. Time constraints in a busy medical practice can limit our ability to properly educate patients about the aesthetic services we offer. Furthermore, patients who see us for medical reasons may not understand why we are promoting injectable treatments, such as Botox and dermal fillers. The same may be true of plastic surgeons or dermatologists who have primarly focused on reconstructive or medical treatments. The purpose of this article is to provide guidelines to artfully and ethically promote aesthetic procedures to medical patients.
Ask the Question
Many physicians find it difficult to begin a discussion regarding aesthetic treatments with their medical patients. One technique that I have found helpful is to ask each patient, “If there is one thing about your skin that you could improve, what would it be?” This allows the patient to voice their concerns from their perspective and gives the physician insight into what is bothering them. At this point, the physician has the opportunity to explain what can be done to treat any condition the patient mentions. Instead of asking a question such as, “Have you ever thought of getting rid of your crow’s feet?” this less aggressive approach is not as threatening to the patient and puts them in the driver’s seat.
As with all aspects of medicine, good judgment is paramount. If a patient is in pain or is dealing with a complicated problem, the last thing on their mind might be improving their appearance. Promoting aesthetic procedures to these patients may cause them to become upset and can negatively affect your practice’s reputation. It is important to check your “gut” when considering which patients would be most receptive to considering aesthetic services.
More Soft Sells
There are other “softer” ways to let patients know that aesthetic treatments are available at your practice. Placing brochures for each of the injectables in the waiting room allows patients to start thinking about these treatments while they are waiting to see you. Similarly, if your practice is equipped with monitors in each exam room, they can be used to show videos on each of these treatments while patients are waiting there. Additionally, giving a patient a worksheet where they can circle areas of the face that bother them can be helpful.
At each of my practices, we host events in our office at least twice a year to promote cosmetic surgery, fillers, and neuromodulators (See figures). Patients are treated to refreshments, a PowerPoint presentation with a “question and answer” session, and the opportunity to sign up for these treatments at a discounted rate. These events foster goodwill and increase a “buzz” around the aesthetic component of the practice.
Keep Following Up—Appropriately
Mentioning cosmetic treatments to medical patients is very similar to planting seeds. Some seeds will grow quite quickly. Others will grow but need a little extra watering. And some will not grow, no matter how much care they receive. If a patient says s/he is thinking about having a particular treatment done but is not yet ready to “pull the trigger,” a note can be placed in the chart. For example: “nasolabial folds: Patient is considering hyaluronic acid filler.” This serves as a reminder to gently mention this to the patient at his/her next visit.
Patient and Persistence Are Key
When it comes to building an aesthetic practice, patience and persistence are key. By using these simple techniques, your aesthetic “footprint” is certain to grow steadily over the years.
Paul B. Johnson, MD
• Paul B. Johnson, MD is an oculoplastic surgeon practicing in Philadelphia and its suburbs. He attended Johns Hopkins University and Jefferson Medical College. He completed his ophthalmology residency at the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary and his oculoplastics fellowship at the Wills Eye Institute.