In the 2012 Treatment Abroad Medical Tourism Survey, one of the clear conclusions is that cosmetic surgery patients are hard to please! The survey attracted over 1,000 participants and explores the experiences of patients who have gone abroad for some form of surgery or medical or dental treatment.
One in five cosmetic surgery patients who became medical tourists were dissatisfied. For non-travelling cosmetic surgery patients, clinical studies suggest that satisfaction levels of 90% or higher are the norm.
So...what does this say about the quality of service provision in cosmetic surgery tourism and should we be concerned?
When we dig deeper, we find that the differences aren’t just about the patient’s satisfaction with the outcome. Cosmetic surgery patients rated all of the following aspects of their treatment and care lower than any other type of patient:
As a result, cosmetic surgery tourists are much less likely to recommend going for cosmetic surgery abroad to a friend and one in five would not repeat the experience.
What can we conclude from this? Is the sample skewed by a particularly poor cosmetic surgery provider? The answer is “no”... the patients went to 38 different countries for surgery. That’s a pretty good spread of patient experience.
Various studies have been undertaken on patient satisfaction levels in cosmetic surgery patients.
The difficulties in drawing a conclusion....
My gut feeling is that there are two conclusions that we can draw from the data in the 2012 Treatment Abroad Medical Tourism Survey.
Some cosmetic surgeons will say that because of the high expectations of patients, there will always be lower patient satisfaction levels in cosmetic surgery. There are patients that just won’t be happy with the outcome however good the surgery has been. Take these comments from our survey for example:
And there are patients where it appears that the surgery was at fault:
But many of the areas of dissatisfaction are not about the aesthetic outcome or the clinical outcome of the surgery. Here’s what made a few patients unhappy:
And these are things that are not that difficult to fix.
If these patients are harder to please, then facilitators, clinics and doctors are going to have to work harder to keep these patients happy. Cosmetic surgery patients may have higher expectations. They are not sick patients looking for a cure. They may be more critical of the outcome.
Remember that the patient experience is not just about the surgery; it’s about everything that happens along the patient journey. And at the moment, it is evident that the medical tourism sector is going to have to work much harder to meet patient expectations, and not just for those undergoing cosmetic treatment.
I am Executive Chairman of LaingBuisson International Ltd, a major provider of healthcare business intelligence. Our websites include International Medical Travel Journal, Treatment Abroad, the medical tourism portal, DoctorInternet, the Arabic medical tourism portal and Private Healthcare UK, the UK's leading site for private healthcare services. I am a regular speaker and commentator on medical tourism and the independent healthcare sector.