Something that we always place a lot of emphasis on during our training courses is the importance of carrying out a proper, in-depth medical consultation before any treatment takes place. We consult our patients for a number of reasons. Firstly, a medical consultation allows us to find out more about the patient’s medical history and ensure that they are actually safe and suitable to have treatment in the first place. It also gives us the opportunity to properly explain and discuss the various treatment options available to them. Finally, it allows us to assess the patient’s area(s) of concern, find out what results they’re hoping to achieve from the treatment, and manage their expectations accordingly. Management of patient expectations is a vital part of the consultation process and is not something to be glossed over as an aesthetic practitioner.
Why is it important to manage patient expectations?
In this day and age, when we are constantly being presented with images of seemingly perfect celebrities and models, which have usually been excessively airbrushed and filtered, it is not uncommon for patients to have an unrealistic view of what can be achieved with cosmetic procedures. As an aesthetic practitioner, you have a responsibility to your patients to be realistic and tell them honestly whether or not the results they are hoping for are actually possible.
In our blog about building your client base, we discussed the value of developing great relationships with your clients and making sure that they trust you. Of course, some unscrupulous practitioners may tell a patient exactly what they want to hear and just take their money, but when the patient realises that the treatment has not given them the results they were expecting, they are unlikely to return to that practitioner in the future. Instead, by being honest with a patient and telling them exactly what can and can’t be done, you are demonstrating to them that you are trustworthy and hopefully this will lead to them becoming a longstanding client.
Alternatively, by not managing a client’s expectations, not only do you potentially lose business as more and more patients realise that you aren’t delivering on what you’ve promised, but you are also setting yourself up for further problems down the line. As we all know, people tend to be far more vocal if they’ve had a bad experience with a business, and a disappointed patient may leave negative feedback or reviews on social media or even simply spread the word to friends and family. In the most extreme instances, an unhappy patient could submit a formal complaint or even a legal claim.
How to manage patient expectations
As we’ve already touched on, consultation is key. This is your opportunity to communicate with the patient and educate them on what is and isn’t possible. It’s important to ensure that you understand exactly what the patient wants and that they understand what the treatment involves and what to expect.
As patients are required to give their informed consent prior to treatment, it is common for practitioners to include lots of information about the treatment itself on their consent forms. This is a good idea in theory, however, don’t assume that the patient has actually read everything. At Facethetics, we sometimes notice that our models will turn straight to the back page of a consent form and sign it, without actually reading any of it! Bearing this in mind, as the practitioner, you must confirm not only that the patient understands the treatment, but also that they are aware of any side effects, possible complications and downtime that may be required, before starting the procedure.
We won’t go too in-depth about assessing a patient’s suitability for treatment, as this is something you will have covered in training, however, a lot of the same factors should be considered when managing expectations. There are various things to think about, from the patient’s age and lifestyle, to the condition of their skin and even their financial situation. For example, a patient with naturally very thin lips may come to you wanting to see a dramatic increase in plumpness. As it is not recommended to inject large amounts of dermal filler in one session, you would need to explain to the patient that, in order to see the results that they are hoping for, they would need to commit to several lip enhancement treatments, taken over several months. This could therefore mean that the client ends up paying a lot more than they expected, and also, that the results they were hoping for will be gradual rather than immediate. It is much better practice to have this conversation during the initial consultation, rather than carrying out the first treatment and then explaining to the client that if they want to see better results, they will need to come back at a later date and pay more. Ultimately, it is just a case of being upfront and honest.
Turning people down
On some occasions, it may be necessary to turn someone down for a treatment. This may be because you know that they won’t simply benefit from the treatment in question, or that they won’t see the results they are hoping for. As long as you are honest and can explain exactly why you can’t treat them, most patients are understanding and will appreciate the honesty.
Of course, in the aesthetics industry, it is also common to come into contact with patients who exhibit body dysmorphia and while you don’t feel that they need treatment, they may be adamant that they do. They may even try to convince you to go ahead with a treatment. In these cases you must maintain your professionalism and be firm but polite. If, in your professional opinion a patient should not be treated, then you must stick to this. As the medical professional, you are responsible for any treatment that takes place, as well as any issues that may arise further down the line if the patient decides that they are not happy.