Starting a cosmetic practice does not mean automatic success. The mere shedding of a physician's dreaded dependence on insurance reimbursement does not guarantee patients will walk in the door — especially given the fierce competition. All sorts of medical specialists are in the cosmetic arena — even those traditionally considered outside the cosmetic surgery field, such as gynecologists and internists. That is not to mention competition from spas and other businesses that offer cosmetic services.
Kenneth Beer, M.D., a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, who has grown a successful cosmetic practice in West Palm Beach, Fla., says there are important things for the new cosmetic surgeon to consider.
Tips to succeed
The cosmetic aspect of Dr. Beer's dermatology practice, which started about 10 years ago at about 5 percent, has grown to 55 percent, which Dr. Beer says is the limit because he wants to continue to care for skin cancer patients. Dr. Beer, who is a voluntary instructor in the department of dermatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, says that one's ability is the first factor in starting and growing such a practice.
"As childish as it sounds, the best thing is to really know what you are doing. One needs to be well-trained and work with people who are smarter than they are for a long time before opening their cosmetic practices," Dr. Beer says. "It is important to gain experience watching others who have more experience than you in cosmetic surgery. Physicians are often willing to share what they know, and learning from them gives you some idea of translating what you read about and what you learn from residency into real-life practice."
Dr. Beer offers these tips:
Participate in clinical trials; get published. Dr. Beer says his participation in clinical trials and his teaching post at a university hospital help him to stay on the cutting edge.
"You can also see how the different products compare," he says. "Participating in clinical trials really helps you to understand how to evaluate clinical information regarding new products and procedures. I have the opportunity to review research articles and have published a few as well. This has taught me to scrutinize different products and techniques and to filter out the ones that lack compelling data."
Avoid cosmetic surgery gimmicks. Dr. Beer avoids cosmetic surgery trends that have not been proven because, he says, unhappy patients make for unsuccessful cosmetic practices.
"There are doctors who do whatever is on Oprah that month, and I think that sets them up for failure. One example: the NLite and other 'nonsurgical facelifts' which promise a great deal and look wonderful on television but frequently don't live up to the hype."
If you stick with procedures and products that make sense and use good science, you stand a better chance of having happy patients, and this translates into a healthy cosmetic practice. If, on the other hand, you simply employ whatever looks good that month, you will not do yourself or your patients a favor, and, over time, this will not serve to grow your practice. Products and procedures that promise a great deal but do not deliver, according to Dr. Beer, leave patients looking for other doctors. It is better, Dr. Beer says, to underpromise and overdeliver. This tends to be a recipe for success.
"We have a lot of repeat patients, and they tend to be happy and refer friends and family, so the practice has organic growth."
This type of growth takes years, but it is the best way to grow a cosmetic practice.