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With the proliferation of “faux” dermatologists and “experts” in skincare, it is important to focus on what we as dermatologists can do to differentiate ourselves as the primary resource for patients seeking skincare and cosmetic surgery advice. Without continued emphasis and ongoing messaging to the public, it remains a possibility that we could wake up one day and suddenly be second fiddle to “aesthetic medicine practitioners” without any formal residency education in a core specialty (or even medical school). But more likely, we face irrelevance via an insidious erosion of our authority.

First and foremost, it is essential that we, as a specialty, recognize the importance that marketing and territorial dominance have on our continued recognition as experts. This means offering an in-office experience that matches what our patients expect. In the past few years, I have invested in a new “look” for the office, but this could range from redecoration to retraining for your staff. It could also be as simple as a “secret shopper” (friend or family, but not a person with a recognizable voice to your staff) who tries to make an appointment and evaluates the process. If your secret shopper isn’t pleased, future patients won’t be either, and it is time to retrain, reeducate, or replace staff.

Second, an emphasis on ratings is always essential. I have mentioned this many times, but it bears repeating: your patients are most likely happier than you think with your services. But if you don’t ask them for a review, you will be stuck with the crabby patients as your only testimonial on Google, RateMD, or other review services. We have a service for our booking that automatically asks for a review after the appointment. Before having this service, we had a problem with reviews from years prior, and we were only asking for “sure thing” reviews from patients we knew and were certain they would give us a good review. This resulted in a review response rate of only about five percent, which didn’t even come close to balancing out the ones from previous years when we weren’t paying attention. Once we started asking every single patient who came in the door for a review, our Google rating went from a 2.5 to 4.6 nearly immediately and has stayed there since. We still get the once-in-a-while poor review, but we always answer courteously, trying our best to defuse the situation, both on the review and privately. If there is some actionable item that results from the review, we promptly attempt to remedy it.

One other way to establish ourselves as a trusted source is to go where the patients are, namely social media. This doesn’t mean one has to dance in TikTok videos or do elaborate Instagram posts, but it does mean you have to create a social media presence for your practice. Without it, there is no chance of “meeting” hundreds, if not thousands, of new patients for your practice. You may not run the social media campaign for your office, but you should always know your office’s content as you will be judged by it. If you hand your campaigns off to an employee, you must know they will not post inappropriate content or protected content. HIPAA rules are critically important when it comes to social media, and failure to adhere to them could result in violated privacy and a terrible fine.

Lastly, it is incumbent upon dermatologists to offer procedures and products that their patients want, provided they are safe and effective. This could be as obvious as being available for general dermatology appointments for your cosmetic patients, even if you are more “cosmetic” in flavor. The reverse is true, as well, for all the dermatologists who resist offering neurotoxins or fillers in their practice or farm them out to a nurse or physician extender in the practice. There is no better way to be seen as an expert than to make an immediate and meaningful difference in someone’s health and appearance—and this is exactly what these procedures can do. There are numerous courses, conferences, and opportunities to be trained in the art of cosmetic injections, and these are only increasing with time. I am biased as I run one of them, but there are many conferences out there; each has its own merits. Just as dermatology has evolved over time, dermatologists must evolve or be stuck in a time-warp.

The recent pandemic has shifted many of our priorities and sources of information dramatically and this has impacted our patients as well. It behooves us to remember this and adapt the ways we provide access to our wisdom and talents as a profession so we can retain our dialogue and immediacy with our patients over time.

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