Discount Plastic Surgery and How Many Patients Do I Lose?
Through the internet, Dr. Kenneth Hughes, Los Angeles plastic surgeon, will receive up to 400 or 500 inquiries a month from prospective patients. In the past, Dr. Kenneth Hughes responded to all of these inquiries personally, but he no longer does that as he felt patients were just taking advantage of his generosity, knowledge, and time. It was not uncommon for Dr. Kenneth Hughes to spend several hours at night and all weekend answering the many questions people had. This would have been fine if this would have resulted in patients scheduling surgery. However, more than 90% of the time I would respond to dozens of emails from the same individual, answer as many questions as you could imagine, and then I would never hear back from them about scheduling a procedure. That will leave a very offensive taste in anyone’s mouth. Multiply that experience by hundreds or thousands of occurrences over a several year period and you can probably guess how disgusted I became. I really do not think that any human being can tolerate that for any period of time.
Now I am much more selective about answering. I will send some of the inquiries to my staff to call individuals. If my staff leaves voicemail and email for an individual and we never hear back, I consider that individual to not be serious about surgery. If the individual is willing to pay a mere $100 consultation fee (even though the surgery can be tens of thousands of dollars), at least there is some value for my time and concomitant respect for what I offer. This results in much less wasted time for me and a much happier countenance from me for the patients who are serious. It allows me to focus on those individuals serious about surgery and at the same time not be dragged down by the others. Surgery and surgical care requires complete devotion, dedication, and care, and I want my patients to know that and feel that.
I do not really advertise at all and I probably never will. I simply built my own website and I allow patients to judge for themselves the quality of the work I perform. Certainly, there are review sites that bring in patients as well, but those always have to be taken for what they are as individuals often have an agenda for writing a negative review – competitor, extortionist, etc. This very laid back formula has proven successful in obtaining patients from all over the world, but it is not without its disadvantages. The busier you are as a plastic surgeon, the more complaining you will hear and the more negativity you will have to endure. No one is immune to complications and no one will be able to avoid them all as the number of operations ticks into the thousands or tens of thousands. You will become a victim of statistics and your own success.
Thus, at some point, you have to decide how busy do you want to be. Certainly, I could perform 4 to 5 Brazilian butt lifts a day 5 days a week like I have in the past due to immense physical gifts and endurance, but that once again creates a huge volume of cases for which other plastic surgeons will think is impossible. And Heaven forbid you have a complication and the other plastic surgeons will say I have done this procedure for 15 or 20 years and never had a complication. The truth is they have their complications because I see their revisions all the time in my clinic. Also, the numbers of surgeries they perform may be 1/10th of what I perform or fewer. In addition, certain surgeons’ work I revise two or three times a week because they perform such conservative surgery while simultaneously bragging about how safe they are. All they are doing is creating a situation in which a more skilled surgeon such as myself will have to combat the scar tissue to get a result that the patient could have achieved the first time. This is more risk for me and more risk for the patient, because the first surgeon would not or could not get it right.
It is very common among plastic surgeons for an individual to think that he or she performs the best surgery or performs the most of a particular type of surgery, but only one individual is truly being truthful when saying this. A funny story comes to mind as an example. A retired plastic surgeon came to my office one time to get an idea of how many surgeries I performed. He said on my website I said I performed up to 1500 procedures a year. He was absolutely vehement that I must be lying or exaggerating. So we kept talking and then I showed him around the new modern office and surgery center. He seemed less than impressed. Then we got to the back of the surgery center and he started looking around and then looked at the surgery log, which lists the patients and procedures performed. He saw dozens and dozens of breast implants, dozens of bodytite and facetite hand pieces, and lactated ringer bags (for liposuction) stacked to the ceiling. He asked who else did surgery here, and I said I am the only one. He then grabbed the surgery log and started mumbling as he was reading procedures line by line patient 1 breast augmentation, breast lift, tummy tuck, liposuction of the abdomen, sides, lower back, bra rolls, arms, inner thighs, Brazilian butt lift patient 2 arm lift, thigh lift, breast augmentation patient 3 bodytite abdomen, bodytite arms, liposuction abdomen, sides, lower back. That was Monday. Then he went through page after page of that. Finally the light bulb went off. “Damn you are busy. I can’t believe it.”
That was kind of the end of that story.
Sometimes people just must be exposed directly to something before they will ever lend any credence to it.
So going back to my original topic which was discount plastic surgery and how many patients do I lose? I think that I do not lose as many as I once did because I simply eliminate many right from the start. I think that many patients have the idea that they can ask a lot of questions from a very well credentialed, credible plastic surgery resource and then have surgery at a factory or a mill and get a similar result at a much reduced price. And maybe they can. But I know that I am not interested in feeding into that scheme by offering my time and skills to those individuals who truly don’t appreciate me or what I am offering.
If you let individuals keep taking from you there will never be an end to it. It was not uncommon for me to answer 50 emails from a prospective patient and then, upon asking the individual about scheduling a surgery, the individual would launch into a diatribe about how I was pressuring that individual to have surgery. They would even go so far as to write a bad review. These are the interactions that really drain you as a plastic surgeon and make you want to retire.
I finally reached my limit and said no more. I said no more free email consultations wherein people ask dozens of questions and then question my integrity at the end of it all. No more back and forth emails over a 3 month or even 3 year period when a person decides they no longer want surgery, assuming they ever wanted it in the first place. If people were decent and forthcoming and not so manipulative, things could be different.