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Path to Care Study Shows Significant Cost Consideration Disparities Among Cosmetic Dermatology Patients


Greg Pierce of Synchrony discusses CareCredit's Path to Care study and its findings related to cost and finance considerations for cosmetic dermatology patients.

A recent study by CareCredit sheds light on the significant impact of cost considerations among patients, revealing that for those seeking cosmetic dermatology treatments, financial factors are paramount, with out-of-pocket expenses averaging $481.

The Path to Care study examines the relationship between cost and how it factors into the decision making process for patients. Greg Pierce, senior vice president and general manager for the health and wellness platform at Synchrony, spoke with Dermatology Times® to discuss the findings of the study and its implications in cosmetic dermatology.


Greg Pierce: My name is Greg Pierce, I'm the senior vice president and general manager for our health and wellness platform, which is part of Synchrony. I've been in that role coming on 10 years, and Synchrony is a Fortune 200 company with over 90 years of experience in consumer lending, and specific to our health and wellness platform, we've been providing care and financing solutions for over 35 years. We have relationships in the health care space with over 260,000 providers across the US and more than 12 million active CareCredit card holders. We've been in the cosmetic market since 2004 and entered into the dermatology market in 2006.

Dermatology Times: Can you elaborate on the findings of the Path to Care study, especially regarding differences in cost considerations?

Pierce: We did 2 studies that we've done on patient journeys that I think will be relevant to our audience here, particularly those in the cosmetic treatments. I'll cover at the end of the session where you can access these studies, a little teaser just to keep our audience hanging with us toward the end of the conversation.

But the first is our CareCredit dermatology patients study that we just commissioned this past April, and the second is the cosmetic patient path the care study conducted in October of 2021.

In both, we wanted to understand how patients make their decisions about care, including how they select their providers and how they decide to move forward with treatment. I would say foundationally, both studies found that patients do extensive research before they move forward with care. We learned things on our end that at various points in their decision-making process, patients may research procedures, products, providers, payment options, visit providers' offices, consult with family members and friends, contact their insurance companies, and consider their personal finances. In the Path to Care study on cosmetic patients, we found that on average, cosmetic care decisions take 127 days, which was really enlightening to us in terms of the timeframe. Consistent with that study, the results from our dermatology study showed that cosmetic dermatology patients are significantly more likely to consider cost and financing when deciding which treatment to pursue as compared to medical dermatology patients; which, drilling down a bit further, we found that cost is a key factor when choosing a cosmetic dermatology provider and selecting a treatment is second only to doctor reputation and availability and effectiveness of treatments.

Despite strong satisfaction with their provider, over half of the cosmetic dermatology patients reconsidered future cosmetic treatments due to cost. So for medical dermatology patients, we found that those who are younger and seeking more expensive and repeat treatments not covered by insurance, show more concern about cost and coverage or lack thereof.

Dermatology Times: How do these disparities impact the decision-making process, and what role does financial planning play?

Pierce: Well, we know that the expense associated with cosmetic procedures can play an important role in patients' decisions, as I mentioned, particularly in cosmetic, which are often elective and not necessarily deemed medically necessary, with health insurance seldomly covering the cost of that. Our dermatology patient journey, and I think this is one area that is really interesting to me, our dermatology patient journey survey found that the average out of pocket costs for cosmetic dermatology patients was $481 versus $222 for medical dermatology, so over twice the the out of pocket expense, which is material, and from our cosmetic path to care study, we know too many individuals opt to forego cosmetic procedures entirely if they deem the cost outside their budget.

The study revealed that specific to our product CareCredit, 27% of care credit card holders and 54%, so 2 times, 54% of non-card holders, would likely postpone a procedure if insurance didn't cover it. So you can see the relationship here on financial solutions and the importance of having those as an option for your practice.

Dermatology Times: How can health care providers address the informational needs of patients more effectively?

Pierce: For cosmetic dermatology patients, 81% learned about cost prior to undergoing treatment. So if you think about this path to procedure, it really starts to get interesting when it's a cosmetic, at least our study showed that 81% learned about the cost prior to going under treatment compared to 28% on medical dermatology patients. And again, that's probably the impact of insurance versus non insurance and the looming question of, "How are you going to pay for a cosmetic or an elective procedure?" Medical dermatology patients typically run into the out of pocket costs after the treatment, and providers who talk about the cost of care and financing options earlier in the patient journey can help bring peace of mind and eliminate any type of surprises that may come along in their discovery period.

I would say 5 easy ways to provide information that patients are looking for from the research that we commissioned would be:

  1. Include key location, contact, and treatment information on your website, and I know most dermatologists do
  2. Engage with consumers on your social media pages
  3. Post your practice's listing on insurance companies, websites
  4. Monitor rating review sites, respond appropriately, etc.
  5. And then focus on strong search engine optimization so that you appear in your patient searches.

One thing I want to make sure I emphasize, is providers can extend consumer financing alternatives such as our health and wellness cards, like CareCredit. According to our Path to Care study, more than 70% of patients prefer providers who offer financing options for their cosmetic care, which I think is really important for those providers that are thinking about payment plans, the relationship of payment plans, their patients' solutions.

Dermatology Times: Can you provide examples or insights into how these conversations and financial options can benefit both patients and providers?

Pierce: I mean, patients, and we're all patients at some point, patients appreciate transparency, I know I do, in offerings and pricing, and also flexibility and payment options, which kind of all contribute to a positive overall experience that should, over time, generate long-term loyalty. We strive for that same long-term loyalty as our provider partners. So we're kind of shoulder to shoulder in that in that quest.

I would say with the financial solutions, like our CareCredit health and wellness card, patients can split their payments in the monthly installments; they can also do some of the different promotions that we offer, and that will empower them to go forward on a solution and a payment product that meets and works with the needs of their budgets, all the same time that provider receives payments, while the patient works with the third party such as us, CareCredit, or one of our competitors, to pay on a schedule. So providers receive their revenue right away, so cash flow when they need it, and then patients have more financial options. So you can say everyone, everyone benefits, everyone wins in that's scenario. By partnering with a third party financial institution like us, practices can also benefit from automated processes, technology integrations, in a really just seamless way for a payment product to work within the ecosystem of their revenue cycle or their management system. We've really put a lot of work into our integrations to make sure that they're as frictionless as possible and easy to work with for our for our provider partners.

Dermatology Times: Can you share some insights into how financial solutions like CareCredit work?

Pierce: Whether it's medical or cosmetic care, our card holders can leverage promotional financing, like I mentioned earlier, or structured monthly payments in our equal payment or our installment loan products, and that would really just kind of empower them to incorporate the desired care into their budget over time. I'd say this approach renders even high cost procedures considerably more accessible, which is one of the benefits that came out of the study that I really want to emphasize. And then with Synchrony's CareCredit health and wellness card, cosmetic patients looking for some kind of a modern way to pay for care can apply within the practice on any smart device, which we all have phones, over the phone with no impact to their credit score, which is really important, and the credit decision is made within minutes. People don't have time these days. So if approved, patients can use their account to pay for the treatment right away. It's a real benefit, and we have, as I mentioned, we have a wide range of financing options from promotions from 6 months to 60 months, depending on the purchase amount, need, and market. Additionally, patients can use the CareCredit payment calculator calculator to kind of help them estimate their monthly payments, work it into their budget, and have a better peace of mind when it comes to moving forward with the procedure.

I would say as a final note, for those seeking more information about Synchrony's cosmetic Path to Care study, or our infographic on the top line findings from our dermatology patient journey study, both can be found within the provider section of our CareCredit website, CareCredit.com. When you go in there, look for the for providers tab in the upper right hand corner for those details and informations on the studies.

[Transcript has been edited for clarity.]

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