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VCS2013: Advancing the art, business of aesthetics


Leaders in aesthetic medicine gathered last week in Las Vegas to share their pearls of wisdom on cosmetic treatments and best business practices to meet the changing needs of a dynamic patient market. Get the details of the valuable insight they exchanged.


Leaders in aesthetic medicine gathered recently in Las Vegas to share their pearls of wisdom on cosmetic treatments and best business practices to meet the changing needs of a dynamic patient market. Get the details of the valuable insight they exchanged.

A trend in aesthetic medicine that many physicians and industry professionals are noting is the move from one-off treatments to ongoing prevention and global treatment, according to speakers at the 9th annual Vegas Cosmetic Surgery and Aesthetic Dermatology meeting.

While surgical techniques are still viable and in certain circumstances are more effective, safe and cost-effective minimally invasive approaches are gaining traction to meet the needs of consumers who are looking for a more natural look with less downtime. This appeared to be one of the themes of the conference, while another was focused on developing effective business marketing strategies targeting existing and new patients.

According to Phillipe Burnham, director of product marketing for Obagi, two groups of people will be flooding the market as the economy turns around and discretionary spending increases: One is aging baby boomers looking to improve photodamage and skin aging. Then, he said, “There’s an interesting emerging group of people who are younger and are very knowledgeable about sun damage and photoaging and are looking at it as less as treatment, more as prevention.”

Whether it’s treatment driven or prevention and defense, the goal is a more natural global aesthetic approach, said Mikael Svensson, director of marketing, filler franchise, Merz Aesthetics.

“Patients are looking for that rejuvenation over time. The trend, more and more, is to start earlier with prevention,” Mr. Svensson said. “And aesthetics is a more acceptable discussion under the umbrella of prevention.”

Focus on fillers, neurotoxins

In a presentation on filler and neurotoxin treatments, Steven Dayan, M.D., F.A.C.S., a facial plastic surgeon in Chicago, said the goal of using neurotoxins and fillers isn’t to remove wrinkles. It’s about how to make the face more symmetric. If a person can tell a patient had work done, you fail, he says, because beauty works at a subconscious level.

His effort to develop a brand around this outcome he feels is critical to fighting commoditization, which he feels is a threat to all aesthetic physicians.

“Don’t charge price per unit because once you start going down that road and charging price per unit, eventually you become irrelevant,” Dr. Dayan said. “(Patients will) come to you for $10 per unit but they’ll go next door for $9 per unit, because you don’t matter; the only thing that matters is the dollar per unit, and eventually if we all do that, we all become irrelevant.”

Tracy Drumm, vice-president of aesthetic practice marketing firm IF Marketing, agreed. “Commodities compete on prices, brands compete on intangible attributes," Ms. Drumm said. She has drilled brand marketing down to three key points: experience, relationships and outcome-based marketing.

Brand building

When working on building your practice's brand, you should also think about marketing campaigns and targeting specific audiences with varying media, according to Grant Stevens, M.D., F.A.C.S., owner of a plastic surgery practice in Marina Del Rey, Calif. He relayed how he uses emails, newsletters, a website, radio spots and billboards to attract attention and build a brand around the phrase, "Freeze the Fat."

Dr. Stevens’ efforts, he said, have led to a huge growth in the number of patients who come to his practice because they are interested in the CoolSculpting (Zeltiq) results from the "Freeze the Fat" campaign.

"Sixty-six percent of ‘Freeze the Fat’ patients were new patients," Dr. Stevens says. "Sixty-two percent of those were aesthetic neophytes and 40 percent became established patients."

Dr. Dayan says his branding strategy has also reaped him revenue rewards.

“Since we started offering subliminal differences, our revenue has gone up 113 percent. The average patient used to get around 2.1 cc of filler; now they get 3.2 cc, 59 percent of patients end up getting skincare services because the two go together. They get better outcomes because I’m giving them the result they are looking for,” Dr. Dayan said.

One of the keys to implementing branding and marketing strategies is to take advantage of your existing patient base, according to Matt Steve, director of consumer marketing for Zeltiq.

Mr. Steve noted that company research has uncovered that about 40 percent of patients coming to a physician’s office for CoolSculpting are new to the practice. Many may not have even had fillers or toxins, he said. In circumstances such as this, it offers physicians a chance to capture a new patient base and upsell additional products and services. Mr. Steve advised physicians to train themselves and their staff around this concept.

“If a patient calls to ask about a procedure, every single staff member has to be able to convert a patient and get them to come in for a consultation,” he said.

Integrating EMRs

Sessions focused on electronic medical record (EMR) systems and adjunct software products offered ideas on how to develop more integrative practice management systems that improve patient relationships and, ultimately, practice revenues.

Successful EMR processes can integrate the pieces of a clinician’s practice, from scheduling to appointment reminders, to consults, to marketing, so that all work together, according to Jerry Jacobson, CEO of PatientNow.

Also over the course of the five-day meeting, clinicians from four specialties - plastic surgery, oculoplastic surgery, dermatology and facial plastic surgery - shared research and techniques for improving the aesthetic outcomes when managing patients for blepharoplasty and rhinoplasty to the use of fillers and neuromodulators in minimizing facial aging to improving scarring resulting from procedures such as Mohs surgery.

Follow our upcoming e-newsletters and our print edition for more insight culled from this meeting.

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