What Patients Want: Subjective Factors that Impact How Patients Choose a Plastic Surgeon
Lan B. Hua, MD, Evan Katzel, BS, Stephan Vega, MD, Howard N. Langstein, MD, John Girotto, MD.
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA.
PURPOSE: There are few data in the literature that investigate how patients choose their plastic surgeon. The objectives of this study are to assess what factors the patients consider important in selecting their plastic surgeon.
BACKGROUND: For many medical issues, especially urgent ones, patient preferences have little influence on which surgeons are chosen. Often, patients are “assigned” to a surgeon based on availability or existing referral networks. Because plastic surgery exists in the nexus between consumer and medical culture, elective plastic surgery patients are more likely to influence the choice of their surgeon based on their own perceptions. This study investigated the perceptions patients use to help choose a particular plastic surgeon.
METHODS: A questionnaire was administered sequentially to patients in a university plastic surgery practice over a two month time period. The anonymous questionnaire asked patients to rank on a 5 point scale the importance they placed on: 1.) being board certified, 2.) the surgeon’s reputation among family and friends, 3.) the surgeon’s reputation among other surgeons, 4.) technical skills reputation, 5.) ethical reputation, 6.) amount of time spent in the office with the surgeon, 7.) bedside manner, 8.) personal appearance of the surgeon, 9.) office arrangement, 10.) friendly office staff 11.) and nursing staff. General demographics, income, education, and general lifestyle questions were also recorded.
RESULTS: 173 surveys were completed during the prospective collection period. In order of most importance to least importance, patients ranked 1.) board certification (mean 4.76, p = < 0.001), 2.) technical skills reputation (mean 4.69, p = <0.001), followed by 3.) amount of time the surgeon spent explaining treatment plan (mean 4.60, p = <0.001), 4.) how good and friendly the nursing staff appeared in the office (mean 4.55, p = <0.001), 5.) surgeon’s bedside manner (mean 4.40, p = <0.001), 6.) ethical reputation (mean 4.38, p = <0.001), 7.) office staff friendliness (mean 4.28, p = <0.001), 8.) reputation with other surgeons (mean 4.20, p = <0.001), 9.) reputation with family and friends (mean 3.79, p = <0.001). The surgeon’s personal appearance / how well dressed and office space arrangement scored the lowest.
CONCLUSIONS: This pilot study reveals some important preferences patients consider when choosing their plastic surgeon. Patients place the most emphasis on board certification and the technical reputation of the surgeon. The time spent with the surgeon and the quality of the staff in the office followed a close second. The physical space and office décor was less important. Interestingly, patients placed more importance on the technical skills reputation of a plastic surgeon than ethical reputation. Furthermore, this study suggests that improving the quality and friendliness of staff is more important than improving the physical environment of the practice, a factor that may be important when limited funds are available.