Consults, Consumer Choices and the Last Doctor Standing

The phone rings, a potential patient books a consult and it’s not surprising that some doctors get the idea it’s time to start checking their surgical calendars.

Not so fast, doc. While the world would be a much simpler place if the path from consult to surgery was a direct one, it’s no longer the case for most aesthetic consumers. From their initial research to online inquiries to reaching out to doctors, the so-called “consumer decision journey” has become a much more complex process. For them, a consult is just one, or more likely several stops along the way.

Consider the case of StillSouthern of Arizona, who set out last August to “fix [her] 60 YO droopy, baggy, old eyes,” and whose journey entailed, well, let her tell it:

I wanted to share my consultation experiences as I begin this journey. I need “total” facial rejuvenation, however my eyes bother me most… Have pondered this for a while (have wanted my eyes done for over 10 years), wondering if I should make this investment in me, and Yes! I should!

Over the next month, she had four consults, summarized below:

Doctor #1, who had her browse a digital gallery and note the images that she liked:

We discussed the eye surgery, then facelifts. He does a “quicklift” which I had seen on his website. Docs here already said I needed the full lift, nothing quick, lite or weekend, lol. He said his quicklift is the full thing with muscle tightening etc. Not sure how I feel about that after what I’ve read [on RealSelf]…

Doctor #2, who examined the pictures she brought and used a diagram to illustrate a surgical plan:

She looked at the pictures I brought and examined my eyes. She seemed to think they were better than previously and that I don’t have ptosis, but “pseudoptosis”? Interesting. Told me what she would do to my eyes, while I held the mirror… For the lowers she would cut outside the lashes, trim the fat slightly and remove a little skin… I asked about facelifting. She thinks after the eyes are done I will be happy.

Doctor #3, whose staff took high-res color photos for planning purposes:

[She] began describing what she could do, and drawing on my photos where incisions would be and how tight my chin/neck would be, etc. We are def on the same page as to what would really make a difference: upper (skin removal and minor fat removal) and lower (transconjunctival) blephs (fat removal only no ptosis repair), full face/neck lift (SMAS), defatting of neck, tightening of skin (obviously) which would give major correction to mouth area, laser under lower eyes to tighten skin and fat grafting/transfer to eye and mouth area.

Doctor #4, who she decided to consider after reading his answers on RealSelf and checking out the photos on his website:

When I looked at his pics I noticed he has amazing jawlines and necks! [During the consult,] he was so easy to talk to, very confidence inspiring and assured me I would have an excellent result. He completely understood that I don’t want to look “well rested” but a dramatic improvement… I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable it will be.

So many doctors, so many resources, so many ways to proceed. If you want to know how it all turned out, StillSouthern recounts her “Act II” here.

Doctor Takeaway

Aesthetic consumers have choices — and they’re not afraid to exercise them

Direct referrals via word of mouth are wonderful but the disruptive nature of the Internet has empowered potential patients to conduct extensive research, both about procedures and the doctors who provide them. In fact, according to a recent RealSelf survey, 65% considered two to five doctors (vs. 29% who considered only one). And while considering a provider and arranging a consult aren’t synonymous, it’s safe to say that the patients who contact your practice are more than likely considering your competition as well. Factor in the reality that nearly half (48%) the people who do contact a provider spend more than a year researching their options and you can see why, for doctors, the journey is a marathon, not a sprint.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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