Here we are, emerging from the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic,1 entering the unknown chronic phase. There is much we still don’t know about the virus, including why some individuals become symptomatic but others remain asymptomatic. Even with these unknowns, the world must press on, doing our best to adjust our lives and maintain some sense of normalcy.
One facet of this new normal2 is avoiding handshakes. Then there is washing hands frequently, wearing masks around others, and shifting to a work-from-home (#WFH) routine when and where possible. While all of these changes are upending businesses for the better (DoorDash) or worse (Uber), there is one area where the opportunity has never been better. The increase in people working from home will lead to an environment wherein consumers will realize this is the best time to get cosmetic treatments.
Why This Is The Best Time To Get Cosmetic Surgery
In the past, there were various barriers to consumers getting cosmetic procedures. These included cost, fear of the unknown, and the inability to get time off work. In our office, we do our best to address the issues related to cost. We do this not by bargaining with patients, but by being transparent about price3 before patients come in for a consult. Thus, we avoid the awkwardness of sticker shock that is experienced by so many patients in so many doctors’ offices.
We address fear by pulling the curtain back on the world of cosmetic surgery. With seemingly nonstop education through social media,4 video,5 and blog posts,6 virtually every question a patient could ask is answered.
Unfortunately, time off work is out of the hands of the doctor’s office. In the past, patients would coordinate time off months in advance of the procedure/surgery or schedule it during holidays. With the onset of the work from home mindset, this obstacle is disappearing along with the patient’s commute! This is why it’s the best time to get cosmetic surgery. Patients can recover from home and still attend Zoom meetings as necessary!
Additionally, it allows consumers to avoid discussing why they weren’t at the office during their recovery. They can convalesce in the comfort and privacy of their home. Binging Netflix, ordering food delivery, answering work emails, and never missing a day of work!
But you can’t sit back and hope patients will start rolling in. Here are a couple of strategies to first reach out to patients and then to keep them in your practice.
Positioning Your Practice For This Unprecedented Opportunity
Short-term strategies. Taking full advantage of this opportunity requires a combination of short- and long-term strategies. Letting patients know what services you offer used to mean heavy digital advertising. But that’s too expensive, and it’s hard to separate yourself from the competition. So reduce your marketing expenses by going after your existing patients with email marketing.
By growing your email database7 via a call to action on your website and including your current database of patients, you can get the word out with aggressive email marketing. Sure, you’ve told your patients about your services in the past. But now they’re in the mindset to actually get something done. So remind them of what you offer. There is no easier way to do that, with very little out-of-pocket cost, than email marketing.
Long-term strategies. In contrast, an important long-term strategy includes vertical integration. In other words: ensure all of the services you’re capable of offering are provided in your office itself. For example, a practice can own minimally invasive equipment that allows you to perform procedures under local. In the case of aesthetic surgeons, many rely on hospitals and surgery centers to provide their surgical services. This is inadequate from a self-preservation standpoint going forward.
Consider the current state of affairs for cosmetic surgeons relying on hospitals and surgery centers to clear their backlog of postponed patients. These facilities lost a lot of money during the pandemic and they’re looking to recoup those losses. The facility fees paid by cosmetic patients pale in comparison to the facility fees paid by insurance companies for medically necessary elective procedures. Therefore, these facilities will de-prioritize cosmetic cases.
That’s why it’s necessary to have your own office-based operating room in the future. This was seen as an additional expense, maybe even a luxury, in the past. That is no longer the case.
Once the ban on elective cases was lifted in San Francisco, I was able to get right back to work. I cleared my backlog of cases and started scheduling new patients. But this was only because I had my own operating room and could control our schedule.
Benefits of Vertical Integration
Think of the alternative. It was awkward enough telling our previously scheduled patients we couldn’t operate on them during the pandemic. But imagine if after the ban was lifted, we said we couldn’t perform their procedure for another month or two because we were at the back of the line at the hospital or surgery center, behind the orthopedic surgeons and general surgeons. In this situation, patients may consider asking for a refund and go elsewhere to get their case scheduled sooner with a doctor who has her/his own in-office operating room.
Aside from the ease of scheduling in your own office-based operating room, there is less traffic in the office compared to a hospital. Not to suggest hospitals aren’t safe. But if a patient is concerned about getting coronavirus during the next surge, then it behooves them, and all of us, to be around fewer people. In that sense, an office-based OR with fewer employees will allay those concerns.
Realize the Potential
Combining these short- and long-term strategies will position your practice to take advantage of the amazing potential that aesthetics has to offer consumers at this moment in time.