"Everyone gives lip service to the thought that they want to give the best patient care. But especially when one is in the cosmetic arena, that must be first and foremost in one's mind," says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a board certified dermatologist and general cosmetic surgeon who is president of Skin Specialists PC and founding member of the American Society for Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery.
As the owner of a bustling solo private practice based in Omaha, Neb., Dr. Schlessinger, whose office logs 20,000 patient visits annually, frequently dispenses advice on how to begin or beef up a cosmetic practice.Tips "I see a lot of people who try to start practices on the cheap," he says. "To me, that simply doesn't make any sense. There's no way to cut corners everywhere one can and to have a practice that can efficiently and effectively treat the wide array of concerns that cosmetic patients have.
"Additionally, many dermatologists disbelieve that they can sell cosmetic treatments to their patients in non-glitzy areas. Despite the fact that I practice in a city of 400,000, we have a tremendous amount of soccer moms — and dads — who receive Botox (Allergan), Restylane (Q-Med) and other cosmetic treatments. Although it isn't the conventional wisdom that these procedures are done in the heartland of America, it happens every day in my practice, and quality and customer service are the reasons patients do it and come back," he says.
Neophyte cosmetic surgeons commonly ask Dr. Schlessinger questions such as what single laser would he recommend for hair removal.
He says, "There really is no adequate answer to that question because there are so many different types of lasers available that provide different treatments for different skin types or for different areas. Additionally, as time goes on, one must evolve to improve one's treatment regimens.
"Over the course of our foray into laser hair removal, we've owned at least eight or nine lasers for hair removal. Some we still use to this day; some are in mothballs. But the fact is that if we had stuck with the same one we initially purchased 10 years ago, we would not be anywhere near as effective in our treatments as we are now. It's important that people go with quality rather than trying to save a few pennies."
He adds, "We do something unique each time I go to the American Academy of Dermatology meeting. Not only do we take key members of our staff, including our PA's, office manager and department managers, but we visit each booth from start to finish and find out what they have that is new. This is a huge advantage in that every staff member is on the same page and, if we purchase some new laser or tool, we are all up to speed on it the minute we reach home."
Continuous improvement The philosophy of continuous improvement likewise applies to cosmetic surgery practices as a whole.
"If one is doing a cosmetic practice," Dr. Schlessinger explains, "one must be prepared to look at one's procedures and always try to reinvent how one is doing things. In many procedures, we see practices that have done it the same way for 20 years and are never going to change."
Evaluate new technology, procedures Of course, not every technological advance is worth pursuing.
"If and when newer techniques come out," he says, "it always behooves cosmetic surgeons to look at them and make an honest evaluation to determine whether they're doing things the right way or whether it will pay dividends to look into the newer procedures.