The question in regards to what drives patients towards the cosmetic surgeon or clinic of their choosing is always wondered. Many people simply presume it comes down to the price of treatment or proximity to their home address that has the most influence. However this is not the case.
A study published in the January 2014 issue of Plastic and Reconstruction Surgery which is the official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) answered this question. This study surveyed 150 Dutch patients who had expressed interest in receiving cosmetic surgery. They were presented with a short list of different scenarios and asked to rank these based on what would influence them the most in choosing the right clinic.
Below are what the results showed:
- Surgeon’s Experience – Most popular choice at 36%
This was regarded as the most influential attribute towards a patient choosing a particular surgeon. It was shown that cosmetic surgeons with 10 years of experience or more were preferred over those with less experience. Whilst this may be a factor in any country, it was understood that in the Netherlands there are only a few plastic surgeons and that this result may not be mirrored in countries that contain a large number of clinics.
In the US for example, the average consumer is highly educated about cosmetic surgery and is likely to look at how sophisticated a particular surgeon is at a specific procedure or technique rather than just the total years of experience. Clients are more likely to read up about the surgeon and clinic online. They will be interested in researching the surgeon’s reputation as well as any patient reviews if they can fine them. The consumer is also likely to enquire about how many of these surgeries the Doctor performs per month or per year.
- Method of Referral – Second with 21.5%
Referrals from relevant healthcare providers had the most impact as far as this category is concerned with the patient’s local GP having the most influence. It is understood that patients felt more comfortable when being referred by a trusted medical professional. Other examples include from psychiatrists, dentists, beauty therapists and hairdressers.
One thing that was not discussed was the referrals received from friends or family members who personally know the cosmetic surgeon or someone that received treatment from them. Whilst positive word of mouth can only benefit a business, within the cosmetic surgery community, treatment received by patients is often kept secret and not publicized. So relying solely on the gratitude of satisfied patients to grow a Doctor’s business is unlikely to get it to where they want it to be alone.
What was interesting is that referrals from television, radio, magazines and internet forums had a negative effect on their decision.
One interesting statistic reported was that, “Estimates in the US are that 80% of consumers go online to read information about doctors in general. Even if they get a referral from a family GP or hairdresser confidante, the natural inclination is to Google that doctor’s name and visit his/her website before taking the referral any further.”
- Travel Time – Third with 14%
It is understandable that patients would prefer to receive cosmetic treatment from a clinic that is within 1 hour of their home. Not only because a closer distance makes travel more convenient on the day of surgery, travel time is factored in when visiting the Doctor post surgery for the scheduled follow-up appointments.
However travel time was less of a factor when wanting to receive a more complex and bigger surgery that will have a major impact on their appearance such as facelifts, neck lifts, hair transplantation or breast lifts.
Today people are even more willing to travel especially for second surgeries to revise prior surgeries that were not deemed as successful by the patient.
Cosmetic surgeries are considered as major events in a person’s life and therefore patients will be willing to travel if they are confident and truly believe that their preferred Surgeon is the best at what they want to receive.
- Cost of Surgery – Forth with 13%
Without a doubt the cost of having surgery often does have an impact on the patient’s final decision on where to receive treatment regardless of their income bracket. It is said that in as many as 50% cases, high procedure costs are the number one obstacle stopping the patient from proceeding with surgery. The second common obstacle is fear. This represents the fear of pain; the fear of not being satisfied; The fear of wasting their money or the fear of a long recovery process.
Whilst a slight difference in price will rarely be an overriding factor, if one clinic charges significantly more than their competitors it will influence the patient’s decision.
Patients who are on a very tight budget could be influenced by a difference in price by as little as 5%. Even wealthy people may try to negotiate a lower price in order to feel like they are gaining more value for their money.
This Netherlands study found that clinics who charged 15% less than average tended to fair best among patients seeking cosmetic surgery.
- Online Presence – Fifth with 9%
This relates to the quality of the clinic’s website, the reputation and reviews of the surgeon’s previous work. Many patients would review this information via their mobile soon after being provided details.
In summary of the above, the surgeon’s overall experience and expertise as well as how they were referred to the clinic have the most influence on whether a patient was interested in proceeding with treatment with a particular Doctor.
Whilst the cost is the number 1 obstacle that stops patients from going ahead with surgery it ranks 4th as far as the reason one clinic is chosen over another.