The Aesthetic Guide is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Telemedicine helps physicians reach more potential patients

Article-Telemedicine helps physicians reach more potential patients

Key iconKey Points

  • Many computer-savvy patients use Internet to 'window-shop' for best cosmetic surgeon to meet their needs
  • Virtual consultations can save surgeons much-needed time
  • Digital images go only so far; eventually, in-person consultations are required

Telemedicine and virtual consultations can help physicians expand their practice by reaching out to potential patients who are shopping around for an aesthetic procedure. However, a personal consult in a doctor's office remains the best and most effective approach when judging — and ultimately determining — whether a patient should undergo a given cosmetic procedure.

Ms. Maley
In today's modern world and with the seemingly unending possibilities that the Internet can offer, consumers have become wiser. Patients can now surf the Net and not only inform themselves about new and current cosmetic procedures, but also seek out their physician of choice, anywhere, worldwide. Physicians who have an office website detailing their credentials and the long list of procedures and services they offer will have a much better chance of expanding their practice on a global level.

"Cosmetic patients today have many choices on where to turn for a great aesthetic result, and, therefore, the marketing efforts that a physician may undertake can significantly impact the decision on which physician these patients may ultimately choose as their doctor," says Catherine Maley, M.B.A., author of Your Aesthetic Practice and president of Cosmetic Imaging Marketing.

Physicians who advertise themselves appropriately through their private practice websites can present themselves much more efficiently to prospective cosmetic patients who are looking for the right doctor. Many computer-savvy patients research and use the Internet as a "window-shopping" tool to find the best surgeon — no matter where he or she is located — to meet their needs.

Dr. Carraway
"There is a certain percentage of cosmetic patients who want to go only to the best and well-known aesthetic physicians and would pay anything to do that. Some will fly across the world just to see their chosen aesthetic physician for a particular cosmetic procedure they want done," Ms. Maley says.

VIRTUAL CONSULTS According to Ms. Maley, virtual consultations are commonly used by patients for "big-ticket" items in plastic and cosmetic surgery, and by physicians who frequently lecture at medical symposiums. These technologies serve as an additional platform from which physicians can communicate with their colleagues and patients.

What's more, cosmetic patients can be finicky and demanding — and they want to save time when looking for their cosmetic surgeon. Physicians who have such clientele need to accommodate these patients by offering virtual consultations, which in the end can save the surgeon much-needed time. According to Ms. Maley, the doctor who is savvy enough to have a big reach needs to be savvy enough to accommodate his or her patients and offer these communication modalities.

"Hardly any physicians use virtual consultations and many still think myopically. Though it depends on how doctors practice and what their goals are, those physicians who want the publicity and want to become a 'name' on the world stage and expand their practice globally in their specialty should commit to practicing virtual consultations," Ms. Maley says.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS As innovative and effective as the Internet and virtual consultations are, downsides exist, as well. According to Ms. Maley, there is a possibility that down the road fewer patients may actually show up in the office unless a physician offers a virtual consultation. Moreover, virtual consultations may become tedious to the physician over time. "These applications can be very effective and the physician using them can have an incredible reach. However, they are also impersonal and incomplete," says James H. Carraway, M.D., director, Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Center, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Virginia Beach, Va.

Consulting with patients is different in-person in terms of what patients look like and their facial expressions, and explaining, discussing and agreeing upon realistic cosmetic expectations over the phone can be more than challenging. According to Dr. Carraway, the virtual consult can give the surgeon an idea of what the patient needs, but, in the end, one should never operate on the basis of a photograph alone.

"It is always better to meet someone in person, so you can bond and build rapport with the patient and establish clear and realistic cosmetic goals. Then the final decision can be made as to whether the surgery should be performed or not," Dr. Carraway says.

As technology progresses, patients will be the ones to dictate what they want because the competition and supply and demand is such that the patient holds the cards. According to Ms. Maley, it is up to the physician to decide whether to accommodate prospective patients, or to remain a big fish in a smaller pond.

"The competition in every medical specialty is heating up nationwide, and virtual consultations are one way to approach this challenge. It is a PR machine and puts your name out there, above and beyond speaking at meetings and publishing studies," Ms. Maley says.

Disclosures: Ms. Maley and Dr. Carraway report no relevant financial interests.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.