The Consulting Room™ investigates if the public are at a psychological disadvantage when seeking cosmetic surgery.
Following a recent online survey, The Consulting Room™ finds differing perceptions in the use of the words ‘patient’ and ‘client’, amongst the public who are seeking, and the professionals who are providing cosmetic surgery; and asks, does this put people at a psychological disadvantage?
Rugby, UK - 30 October, 2006 - Unlike plastic surgery, which is used to reconstruct a defect caused by injury or illness, cosmetic surgery, whether surgical or non-surgical is an elective procedure, meaning that the individual has chosen to have a particular treatment or procedure to improve their appearance, but the procedure is not essential for their overall health. As such, does the elective nature of cosmetic enhancement mean that the individual should be classed as a ‘client seeking a medical service’, or as a ‘patient seeking medical help’?
The Consulting Room™ (www.consultingroom.com), the UK’s largest aesthetic information website, have looked at both how the industry perceives the individuals it treats, and how the general public seeking treatment actually perceive themselves; their findings highlight that these perceptions are indeed very different.
In an online survey asking the public about non-invasive cosmetic injectable treatments, such as botulinum toxin and dermal fillers, they found that those individuals who had not purchased such services were confused as to how they should perceive themselves; with 40% choosing ‘patient’ and 41% ‘client’. Yet those who had already sought out such treatments were unequivocal about their perceptions with 61% plumping for ‘client’ and 30% for ‘patient’.
Yet the industry sees things differently; with both the Department of Health and the Healthcare Commission making repeated references to ‘patients’ throughout their websites. The British Association of Cosmetic Doctors (BACD) and the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) also conform to the use of the word ‘patient’.
Rajiv Grover, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and BAAPS council member comments that;
“The term client may trivialise the serious nature of undergoing cosmetic surgery which carries the same risks as many operations performed for medical reasons.”
These findings clearly show that many regulatory bodies governing this industry, and industry associations, perhaps are not in touch with the perceptions of the individuals that they’re treating.
So, if people visit cosmetic clinics for the first time perceiving themselves as ‘patients’, yet discover after treatment that they feel more like a ‘client’ – Are they at a psychological disadvantage from the start? Are they viewing the suggested anti-ageing treatments as a ‘diagnosis and prescription from their doctor’, rather than a service that they are at liberty to purchase should they wish, but which isn’t really required to make them ‘healthy’? Also, if consumers generally perceive themselves as clients once they have visited a cosmetic enhancement clinic – why does the industry persist in referring to them as patients?
The Consulting Room™ put these questions to Dr Eileen Bradbury, Consultant Psychologist who noted that;
“From a psychological perspective, there are two issues. One is protection of the individual seeking cosmetic procedures and the other is empowerment. When the first is predominant, the use of the term ‘patient’ is most appropriate, whilst the ‘client’ indicates empowerment.
In cosmetic medicine, I believe that the person seeking the procedure needs to adopt the ‘client’ role and thus be questioning, seeking information, demanding high standards and exercising informed choice.
Cosmetic practitioners need to share information, be open to questioning and discussion, and behave with respect and egality towards those they are treating. This interaction is more likely in a practitioner-client relationship than in a traditional doctor-patient relationship.”
So whilst the psychologist’s view is that people should be empowered when purchasing cosmetic enhancement, and view themselves as a ‘client’; the surgeon’s still argue that at the end of the day, elective or not, cosmetic enhancement is innately medical, meaning that although people should still be able to make a choice (as a client), they are ultimately a ‘patient’.
After these findings, The Consulting Room™ maintains that in a service industry where people have increasing choice, the consumer will eventually decide whether they want to be communicated to as a ‘patient’ or a ‘client’, and it will be up to practitioners to avoid a communication mismatch.
Members of the public considering cosmetic surgery should visit The Consulting Room™ website, www.consultingroom.com, to research what’s involved with different treatments or procedures, including potential risks and complications, and to learn more about the type of questions to ask a clinician, and the regulations governing the industry; there is also an online directory of vetted UK & Ireland based clinics.
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Notes for Editors:
About The Consulting Room™
The Consulting Room™, (www.consultingroom.com), launched in 2003, is the UK’s largest aesthetic website providing clear and unbiased information to the public on a wide range of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic treatments, combined with a directory of UK & Ireland based clinics. The Consulting Room™ is the only major UK online clinic search directory who check that all sponsored listed clinics in their database are registered with the Healthcare Commission (where required), and that medical practitioners are also registered with their respective medical bodies.
More detailed survey results are available on request.
Dr Eileen Bradbury, B.Soc Sc, PhD, C.Psychol, Dip COT, PGCE, UK is a Consultant Psychologist at Central Manchester Hospitals and Manchester Children’s NHS Trust and author of the published clinical paper, “psychological issues in aesthetic surgery”.
Mr Rajiv Grover, BSc MB BS MD FRCS(Plast) is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon in London and BAAPS Council Member, for which he is responsible for the UK national audit of cosmetic surgery & safety performed through the Royal College of Surgeons. He is also a medical adviser to The Consulting Room™.
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