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Team approach to cosmetic surgery consults improves satisfaction

Article-Team approach to cosmetic surgery consults improves satisfaction

Key iconKey Points

  • All members of staff should know their role in creating a patient's overall experience
  • Optimal consult results in less stress for physician and staff, reduces possibility of human error throughout surgical process
  • Patient-centric practices are more successful, expert says

In today's modern and increasingly competitive cosmetic practices, it's imperative that cosmetic consults are perfectly executed in order to keep patients satisfied. Anything short of perfection may result in unhappy clients, which could be of acute concern to the physician and office staff.

Dr. Carraway
"Professional cosmetic practices today follow a team approach. However, many practices do not use it at a refined level. Not only must the office hierarchy be understood by each staff member, from the receptionist to the physician, but each member must execute their role optimally in order to completely satisfy the cosmetic patient. This approach also helps us, as patients compare their experience in our practice versus other practices," says Marie Olesen, chief executive officer, La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, La Jolla, Calif.

DETAILS COUNT According to Ms. Olesen, an optimal cosmetic consult seems easy on the surface, but in fact, is challenging to execute. In other words, the devil is in the details. The receptionist, office nurse and physician each must perform his or her segment of the consult and understand the important role that he or she plays in the creating the patient's overall experience.

"It is crucial that each and every member of the office staff appreciate their importance in the chain of events and specific duties that need to be performed in order to offer the patient a complete and harmonious consult experience," Ms. Olesen says.

The cosmetic consultation is a series of inter-related encounters between patient and staff members, the sum of which (hopefully) creates a positive impression on the patient. If any one of these stations fails, the consult may fail, despite strong performances by the rest of the team. In fact, even the physician cannot overcome poor performances by others on his or her own.

FIRST THINGS FIRST The patient coordinator or receptionist who fields phone calls and sets appointments is the first team member who interacts with the patient. Therefore, his or her assessments and actions are crucial.

"The receptionist has to be sharp and friendly and have a good idea of how much time to give the patient for the consultation in relation to what the patient is requesting. They need to listen to the patient and understand and appreciate any sense of urgency about whether the patient needs to be seen sooner by the physician," says James H. Carraway, M.D., director, Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Center of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Virginia Beach, Va.

From the moment the patient calls and subsequently steps into the office, the receptionist must establish a certain level of rapport and trust, Dr. Carraway says. Aside from maintaining a friendly demeanor, the receptionist should offer coffee or hot chocolate to help bring the patient to some comfort level, both physically and mentally.

After encountering the receptionist and completing necessary paperwork, patients typically meet the office nurse. The nurse needs to perpetuate the positive and friendly impression that the receptionist created. The staff nurse will further lead the patient through the consult process, working to understand the patient's aesthetic goals and fielding salient questions for the doctor. By the time the patient sees the physician, the patient should be comfortable, informed and ready for the clinical exam.

After the physician makes appropriate recommendations regarding how he or she can aesthetically help the patient, the patient should be released to a counselor or adviser who fields any and all questions concerning the recommended procedures. This team member will know everything about the physician, from how the physician works to the physician's background and popularity. In some practices, after a price and procedure date is agreed upon, the physician will meet the patient again to finalize the consultation and to answer any outstanding questions.

"A cosmetic consult is less about scheduling a surgery, but more about giving people what they need. Some people need a consult to know that they are OK and they do not need anything, and these scenarios will surface during the consult," Dr. Carraway says.

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