Not All Marketers Are Liars
I saw a patient yesterday who came along to my See and Treat Clinic for areola reduction.
This is a service where I offer patients consultation and treatment on the same day so they do not have to take any more time off work to come back to have the procedure. Of course, there is never any obligation to proceed but I think it is useful to have the option to do the treatment on the day for many people.
Living with a problem for many years
I asked her how long she has been thinking of having surgery and she said it has been a problem all her life but she had only just realised that something can be done about it. This is something that I hear quite a lot. Procedures such as inverted nipple correction, tattoo removal or split earlobe repair are things that people often do not know exist and may live with the problem for many years unaware that it can be treated relatively simply and quickly, often on the same day as the consultation.
Getting the message across
It is all about trying to get the message out there and that is something that we as doctors are constantly trying to do but we often struggle to do it effectively. This can be seen in the recent campaign for the doctor strikes. I do not think they have given us a coherent and easily digestible message for the public to understand exactly what the argument is about. It is also a constant problem in terms of picking up early cancers and trying to educate the public to seek help if they have a change in bowel habit or start to cough up blood or pass blood in the urine.
Not natural marketers
The problem is that doctors are not natural marketers. It is only now that I have my own clinic that I realise how important marketing is. Many doctors think of marketing as a dirty subject and feel that it represents unethical practice and should be avoided. I have come to realise that it is essential that we educate the public and get the message out there because if we do not, other people will and they may not be giving an ethical or balanced opinion. Marketing and PR is simply the process by which we try to get our voice heard and let people know about the services that we offer.
Is marketing unethical
Marketing in itself is not unethical and is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I think we have a duty to inform and educate and I think many doctors are doing their patients a disservice by not fully informing them of what services they can provide. The stigma of marketing and PR turns a lot of doctors away and they feel that they should hide their light under a bushel and wait for patients to come to them. The problem with this is that many patients will not see their light and will see another light of a practice that does choose to market his or her services, who may or may not be as qualified or as ethical as you are.
It does not come naturally to me but I am trying to embrace the new technologies that are available in terms of the social media and advertising to spread my message. Fortunately, in this day and age advertising does not have to be expensive and anyone can open a Facebook or Twitter account and start to broadcast their message. I have had great success with my Facebook live question and answer sessions and our closed Facebook group I have for the patients of my clinic. I enjoy this aspect of my work and am keen to spread the work amongst my colleagues but they tend to look at me like I am a used car salesman because unfortunately I think many plastic surgeons and doctors in general are still blinkered by old fashioned values and ideas.