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How Cosmetic and Plastic Surgeons Can Manage Client Expectations

Plastic surgeon examines woman's face with gloved hands.

November 15, 2021

Patients expect a lot from plastic surgery procedures. They’ve been planning, visualizing, and dreaming of the outcome for a long time. As a surgeon, you certainly want to meet those expectations, but it’s also important to communicate the realities of the procedures.

However, the age of influencers and filters has created unrealistic goals and made meeting post-op expectations even more challenging. How can you balance the two? Clarity and providing as much information as possible is key.

Share modeling mock-ups, plus before and after photos

The simplest way to show patients what to expect post-op is to show them what post-op will look like. Technology now allows you to model procedure outcomes virtually. While it’s not an exact science, 3D modeling technology will allow you to provide a mock-up of the most realistic, theoretical outcome. And that’s just one possible approach.

Sharing examples of former patients’ before and after photos can also help paint a clear picture of what expectations should be. And providing access to former patients (with their permission, of course) as references can give patients the opportunity to discuss procedures with someone who has already experienced it first-hand.

Be transparent about potential risks and complications

Things can always go wrong in a procedure. From facial injectioins to reconstructive surgery, patients need to understand that these are significant medical procedures and should be treated as such. A patient may react differently because of any number of factors in their health history. So, transparency is essential. Outline and discuss any potential safety risks, complications, or side effects associated with the procedure beginning with the first consultation. A full understanding of the scope of outcomes and possible challenges is as important to managing expectations as any before and after photo.

Gauge motivations

One critical piece of managing expectations is understanding why the patient is having these procedures done in the first place. In the ultra-filtered social media-driven society we live in, it’s all too common to have patients looking for unrealistic expectations from the start. Meeting expectations set by highly curated and edited photos will be next to impossible. The best you can do is clearly communicate what is possible from the beginning.

Provide your patients with the realities of the procedure: the healing process and the results that are truly possible. You can’t control why patients want a procedure performed, but you can give them all the information they need to make the right decision for themselves.

Showcase your expertise

Calm fears by sharing the breadth of your experience. New procedures are introduced all the time in this field, so if something is new, be sure to communicate that. And if you’re a seasoned pro at another, be sure to tout your experience (and back it up with testimonials from former patients).

Ultimately, practitioners need to be willing to inform a patient on how frequently you’ve performed a procedure. Misleading patients about experience can certainly end badly. If your patient is wanting a procedure you’re unfamiliar with, you should be prepared to provide a referral if they want a more experienced clinician.

Prioritize prep and recovery

Make sure patients understand the time commitment involved pre-op and post-op to ensure the safest and most effective recovery process. Too many patients get impatient to see results after a procedure and neglect the essential postoperative care that can significantly impact the results.

Whether it’s rest or keeping surgical incision bandages clean, neglecting these critical steps can seriously impact the outcome of procedures. Driving this point home from the beginning can not only manage expectations but improve outcomes.

Don’t lose the big picture

The primary job of any healthcare professional is to keep their patient safe. Plastic surgeons and cosmetic practitioners face an additional pressure to properly manage expectations, balance desires and deliver results. In some ways, keeping patient goals in check is just as challenging as the procedures themselves. With clarity and accessibility, practitioners can provide patients with the tools they need to make an informed decision about their next procedure.

Learn more about how to help patients look and feel their best.

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