Friday, March 14, 2008

Free Consultations for Plastic Surgery
(and why we don't offer them)

Not infrequently, prospective patients will ask whether we offer a free consultation. With the rare exception of special promotions from time to time, we don't. But it might be worthwhile to explain our decision against complimentary consultations for plastic surgery, since some other cosmetic practices offer them (including some in Jacksonville and even in Ponte Vedra Beach).

To put this in context, as of the date of this blog entry, we charge $100 for a full cosmetic consultation—e.g., a rhinoplasty consult, an aging face consult, etc. [some consults may be less, depending on the issue at hand].

However, for this you reserve an hour of time where my staff and I are at your disposal. It includes an in-depth review of your concerns, your medical history, my examination of your features, and a discussion of my analysis and recommendations. None of that should be rushed.

And, as it turns out, for those patients who are good candidates for facial plastic surgery and who book surgery within 30 days of the consult, the entire consultation fee is deducted from the surgical fee—in essence, making it a free consultation after all.

So why do we have a consultation fee? Perhaps surprisingly, it's not to make money from the consultation, but rather for the following reasons:

• First and foremost is the issue of seriousness. Reshaping the face is serious business and the decision to have cosmetic surgery (or even a non-surgical procedure) is an important one. By having even a modest barrier of $100 for the consultation, we help ensure that only individuals who have given this issue considerable thought come to see us.

• Secondly, data has shown that when a practice does offer free consultations, the no-show rate for those consultations is very high—typically because those prospective patients weren't serious to begin with. In response to this, many practices will then go to double-booking those free consult slots. But then, on the occasion that two patients do show up for the same appointment, the doctor faces a difficult problem: cut each appointment short or make the other patient wait a long time. Not exactly a luxury experience, is it? In our office, we know your time is valuable so we never double-book and we never cut the appointment short.

• Lastly, we feel that it's important for patients to realize that there is real value in the consultation itself. Even if a patient decides to see another plastic surgeon, they take with them my advice, suggestions, and warnings. There are even times, for example, when my best advice is that a patient should not have surgery. [And if you don't think that that is valuable, look no further than what happened when Kanye West's mother, Donda West, did not heed that advice.]

So why do some plastic surgery practices offer free consultations? I suppose it's because price is the only thing they have to sell.

We, on the other hand, prefer to offer quality and our unique advantage: a Mayo Clinic training, specialization in the face and neck, and board certification specifically in facial plastic surgery. Fortunately, our patients seem to appreciate the value in that.


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