The challenge for cosmetic surgery clinics abroad

Promoting cosmetic surgery abroad can be challenging. Keith Pollard outlines why it is crucial that clinics know what’s going on in their target markets.

Any destination, hospital, clinic or facilitator promoting cosmetic surgery to consumers in another country needs to keep their “finger on the pulse” of how “cosmetic surgery abroad” is regarded in their target markets.

So, how well do you understand the perception of cosmetic surgery abroad in your target markets?

Often, the cosmetic surgery profession in the target market will have a negative view of patients going abroad. It impacts on their private patient income, and sometimes generates extra work for state funded health services, when complications arising from surgery abroad are not dealt with effectively by the surgery provider.

In the UK, the Royal College of Surgeons, has recently updated its “Patient’s Guide to Cosmetic Surgery”. The guide provides information to help consumers make a decision about their choice of surgeon, hospital and surgical procedure, what to ask the surgeon who will perform the procedure, and what the consumer needs to know before surgery. If you’re a provider of cosmetic surgery abroad to UK consumers, then I advise you to take heed of these guidelines and ensure that the kind of service you provide meets the information needs of these patients.

There’s a specific section of the guide that covers “Thinking of Having Cosmetic Surgery Abroad?”.

Here are some key messages from the Royal College of Surgeons’ advice to patients:

  • “Weigh up any cost savings with the possible risks and think about what will happen if there are complications”
  • “Beware of cosmetic surgery tourism… Beware of any hospital which markets cosmetic surgery as part of a holiday package”
  • “Do not agree to cosmetic surgery before meeting the surgeon carrying out the procedure”
  • “When choosing a surgeon abroad, you should look for the same skills and experience as you would if you were choosing a  surgeon in the UK. The surgeon should also be fully insured to carry out the procedure. You can ask to see details of your surgeon’s insurance.”
  • ” Remember, the NHS is unlikely to help you, unless you have a serious complication which needs emergency or life-saving treatment.”

And here is the checklist that they advise consumers to use when selecting a surgeon or clinic.

If you are targeting UK consumers, ask yourself, how well can we answer these questions? Do we tick all the boxes? Can we provide proof that our surgeons are insured? Can we provide proof that our implants meet the required standards? Do we provide extensive information on what happens when there is a complication?

To succeed as a provider of cosmetic surgery abroad, you need to meet or exceed the standards expected in the customer’s home country. Selling an inferior product at a lower cost is never going to be the key to long term success.

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Keith Pollard
As Editor in Chief of International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) and a Healthcare Consultant for LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard is one of Europe’s leading experts on private healthcare, medical tourism and cross border healthcare, providing consultancy and research services, and attending and contributing to major conferences across the world on the subject. He has been involved in private healthcare, medical travel and cross border healthcare since the 1990s. His career has embraced the management of private hospitals in the UK, research and feasibility studies for healthcare ventures, the marketing and business development aspects of healthcare and medical travel and publishing, research and consultancy on cross border healthcare.