How to Address Patient Concerns, Fears, and Questions

How to Address Patient Concerns, Fears, and Questions

Earning patient trust is perhaps the most important piece of every medical aesthetics clinic’s business model. If you’re unable to gain patient trust, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get prospective patients past the consultation stage, let alone ensure patient satisfaction with the conclusion of each aesthetics treatment plan. Knowing how to professionally address patient questions and concerns while helping them overcome their fears is necessary for your clinic’s success. Here, we review our top tips for helping patients make an informed decision and build better patient satisfaction, even for those patients who may be unhappy with their initial outcomes.

Start with Active Listening

Whenever you or your staff have an interaction with a patient, your top priority should be to ensure you’re understanding that patient’s requests and concerns. For a patient, there’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a response that seems to be entirely out of line with your concerns. Employing reflective and active listening techniques can help to ensure a patient is fully understood and you are actually answering the questions they have asked, rather than instinctively offering rehearsed answers to common queries. Employing active listening techniques, such as reiterating what the patient has said to you before supplying an answer, can ensure you’re on the right track and signals to the patient that you have heard them.

Check Your Chatter

When you feel as though you know the pathway a patient’s logic is leading, it might be tempting to stop them in their tracks and redirect those thoughts. While you may be well-intentioned, this can come across as dismissive to a patient—in fact, too much talking is one of the most common errors practitioners make during the initial consultation. Even if you know that their concerns may be misinformed, it’s important to practice restraint and kindness, and simply let the patient vent all of their concerns. Aesthetics treatments can feel like a big commitment to them and they’re understandably nervous. They’ve come to you for your expert advice, so respond to this honesty and vulnerability with respect and understanding. 

Generally speaking, the first 20 to 30 minutes of every consultation should be primarily filled with you getting to know your patient’s aesthetic goals, skin and beauty routines, lifestyle, and more, so they should be doing most of the talking at this point. Veer away from yes-and-no questions to help you gather more information and encourage patients to get comfortable with sharing plenty of details.

Favor “Patient” over “Client”

While some aesthetics clinics may refer to those they care for as “clients,” some experts argue that practitioners and staff who use “patients” instead tend to care more about the individual and their level of service. This is perhaps a result of the fact that “patients” is more often related to the healthcare field, where ensuring the patient’s well-being and offering the ultimate standard of care are top priorities over sales figures or quarterly quotas. By simply reiterating to staff that all those who walk through your doors are prospective patients, this small change in rhetoric could lead to an overall improvement in patient care and a greater interest in effectively addressing each patient’s concerns, fears, and questions.

Charge for a Consultation

If the reason you and your staff are not properly addressing your patient’s communicated concerns is simply a preoccupation with lost profits due to free consultations taking up too much time, then scrap the free consultation model. Instead, lengthen your consultation appointments so you’re better able to cover everything all at once—rather than having anxious patients keep calling after the initial consult with even more queries—and charge a nominal fee for that time. It’s possible that you could see your number of new consultations decline by charging a fee. However, it’s also likely that you’ll weed out prospective patients who were less serious about committing to an aesthetics treatment plan in the first place. As well, because money is now being exchanged, patients are much more likely to be present and engaged during this appointment, affording you with a better outcome.

Have Educational Tools on Hand

For complex concepts that may be difficult for a patient to understand, including how a particular modality can effectively treat their aesthetic concerns, have visual tools on hand to help improve understanding. For frequently asked technical questions, have a brochure on hand that you can refer to during the consultation and later send home with the patient as a reference tool. Resources such as videos can also help to better explain the treatment process, while high-quality before-and-after images can help demonstrate potential results and offer a realistic, visual affirmation of whether or not a treatment may help the patient achieve their unique aesthetic goals. In other words, having educational resources and visuals on hand can help to reinforce your response and the patient’s level of understanding.

Employ the Feel, Felt, Found Technique

For patients who appear to be stuck on their fears and unable to make a decision, consider coaching them through it by employing the Feel, Felt, Found technique. This technique helps guide patients through their emotions to determine whether or not an aesthetics treatment plan feels like the right option for them. A longstanding strategy in the medical aesthetics space, the technique uses the following three steps:

  1. Feel: In this first step, utilize active listening to reiterate the patient’s expressed concerns, letting them know that you understand and can relate to how they are feeling about this difficult decision.
  2. Felt: In this second step, inform the prospective patient of any past patients who felt the same as them before treatment. Relate those patients’ experiences to theirs to let them know they’re not alone in their concerns.
  3. Found: Show the patient how the story turned out for past patients with similar concerns. If possible, show them before-and-after images or share customer testimonials. By relating to past patients, this will help to strengthen the prospective patient’s ability to visualize their potential outcome and reach a conclusion that feels right to them.

Continue the Cycle

It is a common complaint that patients feel unsupported once they’ve completed the final session in their aesthetics treatment plan. No matter how outstanding your clinic’s services and support have been up to that point, a patient who feels vulnerable and unsure of how to proceed post-treatment and isn’t hearing from your clinic in a timely manner may become litigious. Post-treatment, patients often simply need reassurance that results will continue to improve or feel comforted knowing how they can maintain their optimal results moving forward. It’s imperative not to dismiss a patient’s concerns at this time, particularly when just a five-percent improvement in patient retention can boost your profits by an estimated 25–95% across the patient lifecycle. Instead, see this time as an opportunity to educate patients on complementary skin care products or other aesthetics treatments that may help them retain optimal results and further your practitioner-patient relationship.

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