Study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Uses Market Research Technique to Assess Patient Preferences
For Release: 12/30/2013
Arlington Heights, Ill. - What do patients look for when choosing a surgeon to perform their facelift, nose job, or other cosmetic plastic surgery procedure? Surgeon experience and a personal recommendation from a doctor or friend are the most influential factors, reports a study in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
With important implications for marketing cosmetic plastic surgery practices, the new research identifies the plastic surgeon's level of experience as the single most important factor affecting patient preferences. "It seems that the greater the experience the more confident patients are for a better result," write Dr. Nick Marsidi, Maurice van den Bergh and Dr. Roland Luijendijk of Bergman Clinics, Bilthoven, the Netherlands.
What Factors Affect Patients' Choice of a Plastic Surgeon?
Using a market research technique called conjoint analysis, Dr. Marsidi and colleagues assessed factors affecting choice of surgeons in a group of 150 Dutch patients expressing an interest in cosmetic plastic surgery. Conjoint analysis is widely used to determine which characteristics of a product are perceived as most valuable to consumers. Patients were presented with 18 different scenarios in order to rank their preferences in terms of cost, travel time, surgeon experience, clinic size, method of referral and online (website) presentation.
In response to the scenarios, patients rated surgeon experience as the most influential attribute, with an importance of about 36 percent. In other words, patients based their choice of plastic surgery practice 36 percent on the length of the surgeon's experience. Surgeons with at least ten years' experience were preferred over less-experienced surgeons.
Method of referral was the next-strongest factor, with an importance of 21.5 percent. "The most preferred method of referral is by the general practitioner, followed by referral by a friend or family member," according to the authors. In contrast, referrals by TV, radio, magazine, and internet forums had a negative effect-patients were less likely to select a practice referred in this way.
Travel time had an importance of 14 percent, with patients preferring travel times of less than one hour. The cost of the procedure had an importance of 13 percent. Cost preferences are highly influenced by socioeconomic levels, but patients remain price-sensitive.
For Cosmetic Plastic Surgeons, Implications for Marketing Strategy
Although patients preferred a more-extensive online presentation, this factor had an overall importance of less than about nine percent. Clinic size was the least important attribute-just six percent-with local clinics preferred over nationwide clinics.
Plastic surgeons in private cosmetic surgery practice need to be proactive in developing their marketing strategy, Dr. Marsidi and colleagues believe. The number of patients undergoing cosmetic plastic surgery dipped sharply after the economic recession of 2008, although figures are rising again. In this fluctuating market, knowledge of consumer preferences is an important factor for developing a solid competitive strategy.
Based on their findings, Dr. Marsidi and coauthors write, "[T]he most preferred clinic would be with a specialist that has over ten years of experience, is recommended by the general practitioner, costs 15 percent less than average, with a travel time between 0 and 30 min, is a local clinic and has an extensive online presentation." Thus surgeons might be better served by cultivating good relationships with primary care doctors, rather than advertising on television or other media.
The researchers acknowledge some limitations of their conjoint analysis technique, including the limited number of scenarios explored. Other factors may be important in other areas-for example, all plastic surgeons in the Netherlands are board-certified, which is not necessarily the case in the United States and other countries. ASPS offers a free Find-A-Surgeon tool which allows consumers to find a surgeon by zip code. All surgeons in the comprehensive database are active or international members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery.