New study identifies most important factors in aesthetic surgery patient decisions

January 11, 2017

Cindy Wu, MD, assistant professor in the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery, set out to quantify the anecdotal information she was receiving from her patients. What she found in the course of her study – the results of which were published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal – surprised her.

Wu and her fellow authors compared the preferences of seeking information on three common aesthetic procedures: breast augmentation, face lift, and combination breast and . Since aesthetic procedures are usually elective in nature, Wu knew that patients were shopping around and weighing their options before choosing a surgeon. The study was set up to measure which factors were most influential in a patient's ultimate decision: before-and-after photographs, patient testimonials, pricing information, and physician information, such as years in practice, educational information, credentials, etc.

"The industry understanding, for example, is that patients – who are generally younger – are very price conscious," Wu said. "We also know from clinical experience that facelift patients – who tend to be older women – valued testimonials from friends, neighbors, or family members."

The results of the study, however, upended those assumptions. Findings were consistent across patient groups and procedures, with before-and-after photos and testimonials being the most important factors for patients in all three groups when making decisions.

"Aesthetic surgery is different from other areas of surgery because it's so visual, so experiential," Wu said. "Photos obviously allow patients to judge for themselves whether this was a good result or not, and testimonials are also valuable because patients put a lot of stock in the experiences of previous patients. The best advertisement for you as a surgeon is definitely a satisfied patient," Wu said.

In addition to these findings, the study is also noteworthy for its method of data collection. Wu and her colleagues used crowdsourcing to recruit study participants who used an electronic survey to weigh the attributes.

"I think that the way we traditionally have recruited patients for research studies, though email solicitation and posting fliers, is archaic and can contribute to the fact that research projects take so long to complete," said Wu. "I was seeking options for how we could get a large number of people engaged and taking our survey, and came across Amazon's MTurk tool."

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing platform that employs workers from all over the world to perform tasks online, including completing surveys. The tool has been used widely by corporations and researchers in the humanities and behavioral sciences, but had not yet gained wide acceptance in health research.

When Wu learned about the tool, she knew it would be ideal for the study, both for its ability to enroll participants quickly, but also the diversity of MTurk workers.

"While Amazon's MTurk platform is anonymous, some research has looked at the participants and has found that many are based in the United States, with many other users in countries like India and China. In general, these are people who are educated and want to participate in studies involving research that they are interested in," Wu said.

Before launching the survey in the MTurk community, a smaller survey was conducted in and around Chapel Hill utilizing more traditional methods of subject recruitment. The results were consistent.

Moving forward, Wu said that surgeons should utilize these findings to inform how they market themselves to potential patients. The study is especially valuable since the results contradict what had previously been believed within the field, that price was the factor many patients would value in selecting an aesthetic plastic surgeon.

"What we've seen is that no matter the procedure, good photos and testimonials are what people want," Wu said. "It can be difficult to know what to focus on in marketing your practice to new patients and this study should help clear up some of that confusion and hopefully practices will have a clearer idea of where to dedicate their marketing and advertising resources."

Explore further: Round or 'shaped' breast implants? Even plastic surgeons can't tell the difference

More information: Cindy Wu et al. What Do Our Patients Truly Want? Conjoint Analysis of an Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Practice Using Internet Crowdsourcing, Aesthetic Surgery Journal (2017). DOI: 10.1093/asj/sjw143

Related Stories

Round or 'shaped' breast implants? Even plastic surgeons can't tell the difference

December 29, 2016
Looking at before-and-after photos, plastic surgeons and nurses can't tell whether breast augmentation surgery was done using conventional round implants or newer anatomically shaped implants, reports a study in the January ...

New tool guides patient-centric aesthetic consultation

December 23, 2016
(HealthDay)—A new patient assessment tool can guide clinicians to help ensure consistency in the quality of patient assessment and consultation in those seeking minimally invasive facial cosmetic procedures, according to ...

Breast reconstruction after cancer using abdominal tissue

October 20, 2016
In addition to being faced with the diagnosis of breast cancer, many women also are faced with making several important decisions, including whether to have breast reconstruction surgery. According to a plastic surgeon who ...

Study finds substantial rate of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy when procedure not indicated

December 21, 2016
In a survey of women who underwent treatment for early-stage breast cancer in one breast, contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM; both breasts are surgically removed, the breast that contains cancer and the healthy breast) ...

What's the best way to match the implant to the breast? Evidence on implant size selection systems reviewed

October 28, 2016
How should plastic surgeons choose the best implant type and size for women undergoing breast augmentation surgery? Implant size selection systems based on breast tissue measurements may provide better outcomes, suggests ...

Self-esteem not correlated with number of years younger patients look after face-lift

October 29, 2015
Patient self-esteem measures appear to be unconnected to a positive outcome after face-lift surgery because patients felt they looked almost nine years younger but there was no change in self-esteem, according to an article ...

Recommended for you

World's first child hand transplant a 'success'

July 19, 2017
The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months.

Knee surgery—have we been doing it wrong?

July 18, 2017
A team of University at Buffalo medical doctors have published a study that challenges a surgical practice used for decades during arthroscopic knee surgery.

New tools help surgeons find liver tumors, not nick blood vessels

July 17, 2017
The liver is a particularly squishy, slippery organ, prone to shifting both deadly tumors and life-preserving blood vessels by inches between the time they're discovered on a CT scan and when the patient is lying on an operating ...

Researchers discover indicator of lung transplant rejection

July 13, 2017
Research by scientists at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's Norton Thoracic Institute was published in the July 12, 2017 issue of Science Translational Medicine titled "Zbtb7a induction in alveolar ...

New device could make closing surgical incisions a cinch

July 7, 2017
Like many surgeons, Dr. Jason Spector is often faced with the challenge of securely closing the abdominal wall without injuring the intestines. If the process goes awry, there can be serious consequences for patients, including ...

Success with first 20 patients undergoing minimally invasive pancreatic transplant surgery

June 29, 2017
Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine report that their first series of a minimally invasive procedure to treat chronic pancreas disease, known as severe pancreatitis, resulted in shorter hospital stays, less need for opioids ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.