The initial consultation with a plastic surgeon (or any physician for that matter) is one of the most important encounters between the doctor and the patient. It sets the stage for the relationship. Most people make very important decisions regarding their health during that initial encounter. A bad experience will make the patient walk away with a bad taste and never return to that practice. It starts with the office and staff: Although most patient visit a doctors office to see the doctor they are touched by the office at several points before meeting the doctor. They check the website, the online reviews, they book the appointment, they fill out paper work and talk to staff members, all this before meeting the doctor. If this process has been negative, the doctor is already at a disadvantage has he or she is meeting a patient who is already unhappy. It is very important for the entire process to be smooth from the first time the potential patient finds the practice. Although the following points are more directed towards doctors, patients can benefit a lot by checking whether the doctor has covered these points:
1- Listen to the patient: Plastic surgeons including myself tend to like to hear their voices. However, the patient did not come to our office to listen to us talk, but rather they come with a problem that they want to talk to you about so you can give them a solution. So it is very important to listen to the patient and find out their concerns. It is also important to know about their reasons for the surgery as even different reasons can change your recommendations. For example, in my practice I perform a large number of breast augmentations. However, listening to the patient talk about her environment and why she is getting implants can alter what size implant I recommend for her. This is an advantage that I could miss if I spend my consultation talking rather than listening first.
2- Be honest: There is no better way to build any relationship on anything other than honesty. If you feel that the patient doesnt need a certain procedure, dont offer it simply because you have it and would like to do it. Another form of dishonesty is offering the patient a less than ideal plan because they wouldnt go for the best plan. For example, I feel very bad for patients who come to my office and on exam they clearly need a full tummy tuck and then during conversation they say that another plastic surgeon did liposuction and they werent happy with the results. Well of course they wouldnt be happy with liposuction, because they didnt need it; but they were offered that procedure because the surgeon was afraid to lose the business from a patient who did not want the downtime from a full tummy tuck. I would personally rather not get a patients business at all than to have an unhappy patient. It is also important to be honest about what you do and dont do well. I have no hesitation letting patients know that I am not an expert on the Asian Rhinoplasty as most my Rhinoplasty patients tend to be Caucasians, Hispanics or Middle Eastern.
3- Be confident: If you know you are good and have excellent hands, make patients know that, (without being arrogant – ok, at least try). Dont be afraid of competition. I always ask patients if they have been to other plastic surgeons for consultation and if they havent, I encourage them to do so before booking surgery. I recommend patients see three plastic surgeons before making a decision. It makes them more comfortable with their decisions, and makes them more relaxed with you and your plan. If the patient went on to having surgery with someone else then I am also happy that they found a better fit for their needs.