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Tailoring Consultations and Practice Procedures

Catherine Maley
Physician sitting at a computer, explaining something to a patient

Abstract: Seeing a physician can be an unnerving experience for patients, even if it’s for aesthetic reasons. So physicians and other medical aesthetic professionals need to take the time to develop a rapport with patients and create ways for them to understand any explanations necessary during consultations and other appointments in order to gain the business of loyal clients.

It’s imperative you know what your patients want, what they think about you and your staff, and how to set expectations so they are satisfied. So satisfied, in fact, they return again and again, and bring their friends with them.

However, due to job loss, the credit crunch and other factors, patients today need to be surer than ever their investment will be worth the time, money and effort. If patients think you offer only a cookie-cutter approach with no regard to personal preferences, you will lose them—and their revenues and referrals.

Research shows it is impossible to generalize about patient relations, especially when it pertains to patient preferences. Everybody is different and thus their perceptions are varied.1 Here are some examples:

  • While some patients think an aesthetically gorgeous office indicates pride and success, others feel it is intimidating.
  • Some patients think physicians do not spend enough time with them and feel rushed, while others feel too much time spent with patients leads them to wonder why the physician wasn’t busier.
  • Some patients think physicians are incredibly thorough when explaining various available procedures; others feel oversold and confused with so many options and are thus unable to make a decision.1,

When patients were probed further as to why they chose a particular physician, the consistent answer was patients felt a “connection” with that physician. They had developed a rapport and trusted that this person understood them and would give them the best possible results.1

Create rapport

Before you begin the consultation process with a patient, you should begin to build a rapport. Building a bond with a prospective patient so she likes, trusts and feels she can share openly with you is vital so she is open to what you have to say. It’s the most important personality skill an aesthetic physician needs in order to be successful.

You can build rapport by creating or discovering things in common with patients. It can be as simple as talking about who referred a patient to your practice, or by asking more about her profession and family. The point is to show interest in the prospective patient as a person first, patient second. You can get this information from the patient information form, so just take a glance at it before entering the exam room.

Another great rapport-building skill is the art of listening. Patients need to be heard and understood. There is an old saying—before you can be understood, you must work to understand—and that is truly the case here. A physician who listens without interrupting, nods, takes notes and asks clarifying questions wins with patients.

Mirroring is another way to build rapport. This means mimicking your patient’s breathing patterns, posture, tonality and gestures in a discreet way. People feel more comfortable with others they believe are like them, and mirroring will encourage that belief. So, if a patient talks fast, you talk fast. If a patient is meek and quiet, slow things down. Use the same terms and phrases patients use, and be sure to avoid any jargon they won’t understand.

Educate and set expectations

All patients will have different expectations when they come into your practice and consequently, they will use different measures to determine if their needs are being met, their concerns are being addressed and if recommendations are accurately explained.

To help your patients understand you better, you should understand there are different learning styles. Three of the main styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual people want to see the results, auditory people want to hear about the results, and kinesthetic people want to touch and feel the results. Everybody has elements of all three modes, but one mode usually dominates decision-making, learning processes and how patients perceive information.

You want to present your message in a manner that gets through to patients in the way they understand it best. The easiest way for that to happen is to include all three modes of learning for everyone. For each patient, you should show them things, let them hear things, and attach feelings and emotions to them. Some suggestions to use during the consultation would be to use your hand, a mirror and a cotton swab to show patients facial skin-lifting procedural results, and letting them look at before-and-after photos of patients who sought similar results. Photos are all the more compelling if they are of people of the same age, gender and ethnicity as the patient.

Computer imaging also is popular for illustrating results specific to patients, and videos of procedures and taped patient testimonials also are often well-received, especially when explaining complex procedures. To offer potential patients a spot-on consultation, see tips in The Perfect Consultation.

Additionally, if you have any tenuous patients, have them call former patients who are satisfied, and be sure information packets handed out to prospective patients include press you’ve received, articles you’ve written, your credentials, your practice brochure and anything else they can touch and feel.

Take the time

By treating every single prospective patient as a person first and a patient second, and taking the time to develop a rapport and gain the patient’s trust, you can grow your aesthetic practice—as well as your word-of-mouth referrals and closing ratios—quickly and effectively.

1. C Maley, Your Aesthetic Practice: A Complete Guide, Advantage, Charleston, SC (2007)



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