Consider 'wow' factor in new cosmetic practices

February 1, 2006

San Francisco — With the growing patient interest in cosmetic procedures and the ever-decreasing insurance reimbursements, there are always dermatologists considering expansion of their practices into the cosmetic field. Barry A.S. Lycka, M.D., of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has helped hundreds of doctors transition from clinically based practices to ones inclusive of cosmetic work. He plans to offer some basic tips on how to approach the change during the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, taking place here March 3-7.

"You can't just add cosmetic procedures to your practice and call it a 'cosmetic practice.' A cosmetic surgery practice is quite a bit different than a regular dermatology practice," he says, adding that the entire practice has to become more team- and service-oriented.

"You need a front desk staff that is much more welcoming to patients, listens to them more and spends more time and effort trying to find out how they can help the patients," he says.

"You can't have that in a cosmetic practice because patients can shop elsewhere. This is something patients want, not something they need. So, a cosmetic practice has to provide a 'wow' experience."

Steps to take

The first thing Dr. Lycka says doctors should do when considering adding a cosmetic focus to their practice is to sit down and think about what they want - not to just jump in and buy the first new laser they see.

Doctors should ask themselves a number of questions:

When doctors want to add a new procedure to their practices, Dr. Lycka says they should first find out everything they can about that procedure.

"I've always felt the most successful doctors are the ones with the biggest libraries - those who love to read and want to know everything. They should take every course they can, and then find a few good people in the specialty and study with them to learn the procedure. They need to get the best hands-on training they can."

After doing that, he says the doctor should seek friends, family or patients who will trust him or her to perform the procedure while getting experience with it. He says the work should be performed at a discounted rate or even for free. In return, the patients should be willing to tell others about their experiences.

Better marketing

The practice must also be better marketed than a medical practice.

"Everything should be cross-marketed to all of your patients. Don't separate medical patients from cosmetic patients. A medical patient may not want liposuction, but their cousin might."

Dr. Lycka once had a patient come in extolling her liposuction experience with another physician. He asked her why she hadn't asked him to perform the procedure for her. She responded that she didn't know he did liposuction. Dr. Lycka said his goal was never to have another patient go to someone else because he or she was unaware of the services he offered.

"Doctors, as a whole, are very poor at marketing. Marketing means educating - it means telling people what is available and what is good for them."