Patients have a strong desire to view testimonials and see photos of patients with different procedures. This includes before and after photo when it relates to the aesthetic market. The majority of prospective patients go the Internet after viewing television shows, listening to radio announcements, and reading printed stories about their interest of concern; and receiving the names of up to three physicians from friends.
An overwhelming majority of patients say they use the Internet to locate more detailed information about the procedures that they were most interested in and indicate that they were at the most serious stage of their decision-making process when they do so. The good news is that these patients are ready to go once they’ve reviewed information on a website. They are clear in the expectations and their decision to proceed with the procedure. Testimonials and patient photos are an extension of the word of mouth referral arm.
Viewing patient testimonials and before-and-after photographs is an important part of the decision-making process. At the same time, more delicacy is involved with before-and-after photos posted on the Internet now than in years past. For example, some surgeons have believed that it was important to receive an electronic agreement from the Web site visitor verifying that he or she was aware that the photos may present possible explicit material as determined by some local and national laws. This agreement may also confirm that the visitor is older than 18.
Testimonials and before-and-after photos are very valuable to patients for giving a range of possible outcomes from the procedure they are considering.
One of a surgeon’s first decisions is whether to place any patient photos—fully clothed or unclothed—on his or her Web site. Then, the patient whose pictures are chosen must decide whether they are comfortable with posting the photos on the Web site. This might be the biggest challenge of all.
Yet, patients may feel more comfortable sharing their photos if they believe they are fully informed. They must understand that the photos are being used for educational purposes. They must see photos of other patients who have agreed to post photos so that they know the photos will be tastefully done.
Next is the hold-harmless agreement, which should indicate that the testimonial and photos may be used for any legitimate commercial purpose. We recommend that you seek an attorney’s advice when drafting one. This agreement, along with the patient’s chart, should be kept in a readily available location should any legitimate commercial purpose come up in years to come. Finally, it appears that it makes the most sense that testimonials and photos of some kind are crucial to patient acquisition on the Internet today. Remember a picture can communicate 1,000 words. An expression in a photograph identifies the feelings about herself about the procedure.
It is advantageous for you to understand the fundamentals of news. Highly coordinated press efforts can lend credibility to your practice, provide educational messages, and are a demonstration of good will. In addition, a practice’s willingness to understand press requirements and meet deadlines is highly desirable for the press and patients alike. Traditionally, the three types of reports that are considered newsworthy are, as follows:
Trade and financial reports—Focus on a specific aesthetic surgery outlook, focal point, or strategy. These types of stories may involve key opinion leaders, new practices, and/or physicians.
Human interest reports—Their focus is on human interest in a specific demographic segment, such as patients who have made a significant improvement in their body’s appearance because of their physician and due to a product or technology. These stories may involve one or more physicians, several patients, and, perhaps, a third-party representative or key opinion leader.
Specialty-specific reports—Relevant trade, specialty, or new products and technologies. These stories may include a physician, a key opinion leader, one or more patients, and, perhaps, a third-party representative.
In theory, the goal of the press is founded upon credibility, is not promotional in nature, and identifies news-worthiness via professionally written materials that quote a variety of credible individuals. In practice, journalists are not trained in medical issues—there is a wholly different discipline for medical reporting. Therefore, in medical matters, reporters must rely on the information provided to them to make their decisions about what qualifies as news and what does not. Some media outlets follow guidelines and protocols that are quite rigid and professional. Some outlets are very lax in this regard.
Prepared materials, such as physician biographies, scripts, statistics, before-and-after photos, patient testimonials, and third-party support (in the form of quotes located in the material), are very appealing. These tools help people quickly determine credibility to support your point of view.In fact, you will benefit from knowing how the press and the public like to receive information (in the form of press releases, letters to the editor, letters of endorsement, and opinion editorial articles).
Preparing press materials can be useful to help educate patients, manage expectations, and help the media offer well-rounded information to the public—as long as these materials are not promotional pieces.
Some physicians need to know to shy away from presenting promotional, “fluff” information about procedures during consultations. When communicating with patients, the following tips may be helpful:
You can always draft a professional physician biography of up to 400 words—denoting credentials, training, education, membership affiliation, honors, awards, and practice focus (outlining specific areas on which the physician is qualified to comment). Third-party support is also beneficial. This includes securing the support of an industry analyst or key opinion leader (in the form of a quote or letter of endorsement that supports the physician’s point of view on a topic), a representative of the technology or manufacturing company, or statistics demonstrating the issue and resolution that you are reflecting upon. You can order reprints of these materials and keep as hand-outs for your patients.
Thorough education and rigorous documentation prepares patients and protects your practice. Though physicians are very prudent about informed consent, it is all too common for patients to forget the details of their procedure, including the critical discussion of risks and alternatives, after the procedure has been performed. Rather, patients will build themselves up with visions of a positive outcome when faced with fears in surgery, suppressing awareness of a possible complication. For this reason, informed consent becomes a mandatory part of every consultation. The good news is that there are strategies you can employ to leverage informed consent. And an informed patient is a happy patient. So, communication tools can be very beneficial at helping to secure patient satisfaction. You may want to:
Informed Consent vs. Memory Downfall
In fact, it is very common for patients to forget important details about procedures, particularly the risks. What’s more is that follow up discussions do not carry the weight of documented paperwork, which patients are more likely to remember. This combined with imagery, including photos, video and audio tapes helps patients to remember finer details that are important to feel they have had a successful communication with their physician. When fully implemented, such tools can reinforce a patient’s decision to proceed with a procedure.
Undoubtedly, the physician’s training, education, board certification, associations and particular areas of surgical interest offer a patient the means to better identify the surgeon’s qualifications. Yet, other methods are required to develop the crucial doctor-patient bond. There are two aspects of informed consent — the doctor-patient relationship and the medical-legal aspect — and the common denominator among patients with complaints is misunderstandings. Strong doctor-patient relationships using methods to enhance communication and routine documentation reduce the risks associated with misunderstandings. Tools to reinforce patient trust can demonstrate an understanding of patient needs, improves patient satisfaction levels, and do not necessarily require a large amount of time.