Every patient has different motivations and reasons for choosing to have an aesthetic treatment, and every patient journey is unique. Understanding the importance of the patient journey, from before they even walk through the door to aftercare, is critical to the success of an aesthetic clinic. When COVID-19 restrictions start to ease and clinics are able to open up again, patients may feel uneasy and nervous about coming into the clinic. So, ensuring their journey is as smooth as possible, while proactively building and maintaining patient relationships, will be more important than ever.
The patient journey begins before they even enter the clinic – whether that be through digital marketing, word of mouth or any other form of advertising. An engaging social media campaign on popular platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, can help to build your brand and connect with your audience in the first instance. Social media enables practitioners to share links to blogs, answer patient questions and showcase impressive before and after images. “Instagram in particular is an extremely powerful tool that brings many patients through the door,” says Alison Telfer, aesthetic practitioner and founder of The Glasshouse Clinic, adding, “Patients can familiarise themselves with how you work and what treatments you offer from looking at your social media page.”
Having an easy to use website is another way to encourage patients through the door.
“It is important for patients to be able to navigate through your website with ease, whether they wish to look at the services you provide, patient before and afters, costs or to book an appointment,” says Dr Mark Gorman, plastic surgeon and founder of aesthetic clinic Rejuvedoc. He adds, “In addition, having a seamless online client record management (CRM) or booking system that is user friendly will increase the number of people booking consultations.”
It is not just digital marketing that can encourage patients into clinic – word of mouth plays an important role too, with 92 per cent of people trusting recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising. “We have high number of word-of-mouth patient referrals in our clinic because of the patient experience we provide. If you look after patients well, listen to what they really want and treat them how you would want to be treated, they will talk about their experience with others, which will encourage their friends and family to also use your services,” advises Alison.
The next stage of the patient journey is the patient consultation which, according to Alison, is the most important part of the process. “The patient consultation enables you to build a rapport with your patient and understand what they really want. If you can underpin and discuss what they really want to achieve, then you have nailed it.” Dr Gorman agrees, “Understanding patient expectations and needs is crucial to success – it helps put them at ease, build a relationship and set joint goals.”
The first consultation can often be a nerve-wracking experience for a patient, so creating a relaxing atmosphere, talking about your training and experience, and discussing the patient’s reasoning for undergoing treatment will help make the patient feel comfortable. “We pick up so many patients who have been to other clinics but never received the treatment they really wanted. They may have been too shy to vocalise their thoughts, or perhaps the practitioner wasn’t asking the right questions – so it is so important to build a good rapport and understand what outcomes they want to achieve,” says Alison.
The consultation is also an opportunity to make sure that you are selecting the right patients, particularly as the aesthetics sector re-opens following the pandemic. Emma Bracchi, Senior Claims Technician at Hamilton Fraser, explains “Following the COVID pandemic, patient selection is even more important than ever. Your business may have taken a huge hit over the last few months, but it’s your reputation that will bring you back on track. This pandemic has been incredibly challenging and patients might want to try new treatments to make themselves feel or look better. During your consultation, please take extra care to look out for ‘red flag’ signs and if you feel the patient is not suitable for treatment, do not be afraid to say no. Hamilton Fraser are here to assist if you need guidance on declining patients.”
After a comprehensive consultation, including taking a detailed medical history, you will be able to establish whether the patient is a good candidate for treatment, and put together a suitable treatment plan for both the practitioner and patient to consent to.
After the consultation, the practitioner should allow plenty of time for the patient to decide whether to go ahead with the treatment and not rush them to book an appointment. When the time comes for the patient to have their treatment, making them feel comfortable is crucial, and training is a key part of that, according to Alison. “It is all about the training – we run internal workshops and do roleplays with all of the staff, so the patient feels reassured from the moment they walk into the door for their treatment.”
When it comes to the procedure itself, reducing any discomfort to a minimum is essential. Dr Gorman says, “If, for example, one of my patients has filler, I use topical anaesthetic and gel ice packs throughout, and decant filler into smaller 33-gauge syringes to reduce pain and swelling. At the end of the treatments, I also offer patients a UV face mask to soothe the skin further. Asking patients how they are feeling throughout the treatment is also important.”
Upselling provides the opportunity to extend your services, educate patients on new treatments, ingredients, and products, and build your business for more revenue. “Upselling is simply the exchange of information to benefit,” says Alison, adding, “We believe in all of our products, and using a combination often provides better outcomes for patients. I often say to patients ‘I would hate for me to keep information from you’, which then allows me to recommend other treatments and products that will give the patient the best results. It is not necessarily ‘selling’ to me, it’s just telling the patient how we can help them further.”
The final, but probably one of the most important stages, is maintaining patient relationships to ensure patients continue to use your services. “We have developed membership schemes that reduce and spread the cost for botulinum, dermal filler and skin-based treatments to encourage patients to return for treatments. We offer multiple options to cover the annual quota that patients require. It works really well – 75 per cent of my patients take advantage of these memberships, which range from £50-£300 per month,” reveals Dr Gorman.
Alison adds, “We make sure we keep in regular contact with our patients. Our reception team sends out regular emails to inform patients of what treatments we have available, and we maximise social media. I often ask patients what they would like to see on our social accounts and post content based on that, which is another way to listen to patients and maintain those relationships.”
Other effective ways to maintain patient relationships are to ask for feedback following treatments, or to implement a patient referral programme, where patients are rewarded for recommending friends or family.
Throughout the patient journey, keeping patients informed at all stages, making them feel comfortable and reassured, communicating effectively, and maintaining relationships is key to success. Providing team training, implementing the latest treatments and techniques, and keeping things simple and accessible will help ensure the patient journey is as smooth as possible for both the patient and practitioner.