Effective cosmetic practices require hard data, soft touch

July 1, 2006

New York - Running a successful cosmetic practice demands that physicians pay keen attention to everything from performance evaluation to branding, marketing and interpersonal interactions, an expert says.

Regarding practice management, "The most important thing to remember is that one can't make good business decisions without the proper information," says Bruce E. Katz, M.D., director of Juva Skin & Laser Center in New York and clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Measure, analyze, improve

He explains, "One must routinely measure and benchmark practice results to see not only how a practice is performing year-to-year on its own, but also compared to industry bench marks to see how it compares to other practices of its type."

Along with regularly measuring patient and employee satisfaction, he adds, "Make practice planning a routine, and strive to increase one's personal productivity, not just that of one's staff."

It's equally important to monitor regular business reports regarding total revenues, as well as revenues from procedures, products and staff - including everyone from physicians to aestheticians - for evidence of continuous improvement, Dr. Katz says. Furthermore, he says that applying the same level of scrutiny to companies one works with can help weed out under-performing vendors and contracts.

Dr. Katz advises using a similar level of accountability for monthly staff meetings. In this regard, he says keeping minutes will help one evaluate progress over time and ensure that people follow through on commitments.

Verbal vibes

In building a cosmetic practice, he says, "One should perfect one's procedures one at a time, develop an affable and open approach to patients and never be judgmental."

At an initial consultation, for example, he suggests asking not what problems patients have but how one can help them.

"Let the patient speak, so one can understand not only what their issues are in terms of their appearance, but also other psychosocial issues," that may be at play, Dr. Katz explains.

And if a patient's expectations seem unrealistic or beyond the scope of what one can offer, he adds, it's important to be able to say no to cosmetic interventions.

Nonverbal elements of the patient encounter also speak volumes. For starters, he says that well-appointed surroundings (which include orderly traffic flows and spacious facilities) can convey a sense of well-being, while consultations should be performed in consultation rooms with patients fully dressed.

"It's also important to evaluate a physician's conversion ratio," which should be between 70 and 80 percent, Dr. Katz adds. "That's an important way to evaluate one's efficacy in terms of the consultation." Conversely, he says secret shoppers such as undercover friends or relatives can provide invaluable insights into one's practice.

Staff: your face to the world

As for one's office staff, he says that because these people represent a practice's first impression, everything about them should tell potential patients, "This office is extraordinary."

To that end, he says staff members should be well-dressed and well-spoken (which includes excellent phone manners), offer refreshments and otherwise show their competency. For instance, he says that in addition to being knowledgeable about cosmetic procedures, "Staff should be courteous and address patients by last name until asked otherwise."