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As We All Begin to Emerge from COVID-19, Beware of “The Hard Sell”

As We All Begin to Emerge from COVID-19, Beware of “The Hard Sell”


All of us, patients and plastic surgeons alike, have been hunkered down for weeks, if not months. “Stay at Home” edicts are slowly starting to loosen their grip and we may be starting to think about procedures we had been counting on BC (before COVID). If and when you’re thinking about contacting someone about a nip or a fill or a ‘tox, be on the lookout for people perhaps anxious to make up for lost revenue during these recent months. That’s when and where you may encounter The Hard Sell.

When we hear the phrase the hard sell, usually we have an image of a car salesman or a phone solicitor. But when you go shopping for a plastic surgeon, sometimes you get the hard sell from the folks in the white coats, and that’s the time that most people should get up and walk out. Board certified plastic surgeons from across the nation share their thoughts on the hard sell and how to avoid it.

Beware the Red Flag of the Hard Sell

There’s no doubt that plastic surgeons make money for their services. Like any other service providers, services cost money! This becomes tricky because in the for-profit medical field, surgeons are still physicians first.

Dr. Anureet Bajaj, a board certified plastic surgeon in Oklahoma City, says she and her colleagues do have a balance they must achieve with patients. “We are not here to sell something to patients and I think we walk a fine line,” Dr. Bajaj tells The Plastic Surgery Channel. “I understand that because we’re also physicians first, but we’re also trying to help our patients and sometimes helping them achieve their goals can involve multiple things that actually cost money because it’s coming out of their pocket.”

This can be difficult territory to traverse, but it’s part of the education process of plastic surgery patients. If, for example, a patient comes in requesting a breast augmentation, Dr. Bajaj might make the correct diagnosis that the patient actually needs a breast lift and possibly breast implants to follow. While the patient may at first be miffed that Dr. Bajaj is “upping” the services, and thus the price, her diagnosis is in the patient’s best interest.

Perhaps that patient says, “No, thank you,” and goes to see a different surgeon that cedes to their request for a breast augmentation. Because their breasts were aged and in need of a lift, the breast augmentation results may not be what the patient had envisioned. Furthermore, because implants were placed in already stretched breast tissue, the augmentation will almost certainly accelerate the need for a lift, or cause issues that require revision surgery. Before they know it, the patient who chose the “cheaper” option with a willing surgeon is now facing far greater costs to deal with the problems of a bad surgical plan.

The Brown Shoe Store

The best plastic surgeons available are going to carry as many tools in their toolbox as they see fit to offer the services they want to offer. For example, if a plastic surgeon really wants to focus on breast surgery, he or she will offer breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction, breast revision, the full array of research-backed implants, and other modern tools in order to cover the full spectrum of possibilities for their breast patients. On the flip side, if a surgeon only wants to provide breast augmentation, then every patient who walks through their door is a breast augmentation patient, even if that’s the wrong diagnosis.

“It’s that analogy of the brown shoe store,” shares Dr. Kristi Hustak, a board certified plastic surgeon in Houston. “You go into a brown shoe store, you’re going to leave with a pair of brown shoes. Same thing. You go into a liposuction clinic, you’re going to probably leave with one or two areas of lipo.

“If someone only has one approach, one item, one treatment to sell, then that’s probably what the patient is going to get.”

How to Avoid The Hard Sell? Research

While the best surgeons strive to be up front about their services and practices, it can be difficult for patients to find the right surgeon for their needs. For many patients, they may not even know what their needs are! And that’s OK – they’re not surgeons. What is incumbent upon would-be patients is to do the maximum amount of research about their desires so that when they enter a prospective surgeons’ practice, they will ask enough of the right questions for the surgeon to understand.

This means that if a patient is concerned about the perkiness and volume of her breasts, before going in for a consultation she will verify that the surgeons she is researching focus on breast surgery, or at least offer the full spectrum of breast procedures. If they pull up the surgeon their friend recommended and discover that they mainly perform liposuction and non-surgical procedures, clearly that will not be the right choice, and will be setting themselves up for that hard sell.

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