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The consumer-patient: To savvy surgery shoppers, outcomes talk

Article-The consumer-patient: To savvy surgery shoppers, outcomes talk

National report The traditional medical patient — one who puts medical decisions and trust in the doctor's hands — is becoming the consumer-patient, an empowered decision-maker with demands for safe, quality, evidence-based outcomes, service and more.

It is but one of the trends that will either derail or propel cosmetic surgery practices in the years to come, according to Hani Zeini, former executive vice president of Inamed Aesthetics.

Mr. Zeini, who presented recently at the American Society of Plastic Surgery Industry Forum, watched the medical cosmetic industry blossom during his tenure prior to the Inamed/ Allergan transaction last Spring. In Mr. Zeini's view, patients are driving a transition in the specialty which he characterizes as "from where the patient would once say to the doctor, 'I have this problem; fix me,' to 'This is what I want. Give it to me according to my specific needs, or tell me what else you can offer and show me your demonstrated, evidence-based outcomes.'"

"We have an interesting phenomenon in the marketplace — growing demographics, with more financial power," he explains. "You have people who demand clinical outcomes. They are well researched and emotionally triggered because image is everything. You have a growing acceptance of cosmetic and aesthetic procedures. It is becoming the sexy thing to do," Mr. Zeini notes. "There's a healthy tension, or tug of war, going on among the various constituents in what I term the ecological system."

SHARED STAKES In Mr. Zeini's view, within this new ecosystem, traditional plastic surgeons, cosmetic dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons are all fighting for what they believe is the last fee-for-service bastion. But the fighting is unnecessary, he contends. In fact, true success will depend on their meeting the needs of today's patients, not beating the competition. For as good as the cosmetic surgery space is, he predicts it will be even better in the future.

"The opportunities and future are limitless in this space. But we have to re-orient our thinking and our approach," he says. "The first step is to stop worrying about the turf wars."

SHOW ME THE OUTCOMES Mr. Zeini refers to the old guard, versus the new guard, versus the progression of the market. All are affected by the market drivers in the new ecosystem, including the advent of the consumer-patient. Equally as important is the demand for evidence-based aesthetic outcomes. No longer an issue only in other medical realms, the call for evidence-based outcomes has filtered into cosmetic surgery. "We are now applying to our aesthetics needs how we act in our normal life as consumers. The consumer-patient no longer accepts promises; they want to see evidence," he says.

IN WITH THE NEW Those physicians who will struggle in the future are those who cling to the old-guard thinking that patients should simply trust and go along, Mr. Zeini says. He admits the dynamic of the consumer-patient and demand for evidence-based outcomes puts pressure on care delivery, but says that progressive practitioners will win.

"Those who understand that dynamic and offer what patients demand in a way that exceeds their expectations are going to reap the most benefit," he says.

Mr. Zeini projects that this goes far beyond what one traditionally thinks of as customer service. Consumer-patients are not merely going to a doctor to be treated well, he believes. Rather, they are pursuing results to correct what they perceive as deficiencies.

"The evidence-based clinical outcome must rule. Service is the icing on the cake," he explains.

EXPERIENCE TOUCHPOINTS According to Mr. Zeini, physicians can answer consumer-patient demands, in part, with "before care" — prior to service— when patients are still in the decision-making process. In this phase, the physician walks step-by-step through the patient's options, the procedure's value (outcomes proof), the process itself, and then appropriately describes what the patient's expectations, experience and outcome should and will be.

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