New data highlights red flags around patient safety in aesthetics

Patients at risk due to lack of digital diligence around aesthetic treatments
London, February 17th 2020
  • Only one in five women recognise ‘red flags’ of unethical marketing
  • ‘Digital overconfidence’ makes women under 50 more vulnerable
  • Socioeconomic status irrelevant in uptake of aesthetic safety messaging
  • Online and editorial offer best return on investment for clinics
Digital efforts have dramatically altered the way clinicians are reaching patients, but are practitioners in the aesthetic sector doing everything possible to prevent patients falling foul of the cosmetic cowboys? New research commissioned by EV (etrevous.com), the innovative new platform for the aesthetics industry—and conducted by independent surveyor OnePoll on 500 women interested in cosmetic treatments—reveals never-before-seen insights into their purchasing habits. The findings show they’re missing some major red flags.  

While half of women across all age groups use online searches to vet potential clinics, women aged 18-49 are nearly twice as likely to rely on review sites in order to gauge aesthetic practitioners’ reputation and skills before undergoing treatment. 77% of women across the board would be put off by bad reviews or negative comments online. Additionally, women under 50 are 15% less likely to seek a referral from a friend or family member than their elders.

EV, whose objectives include supporting busy medical aesthetic practitioners while providing the consumer audience access to safe and effective aesthetic treatment, says practitioners must be vigilant in managing their online reputation.

According to Raffi Eghiayan, Managing Director of EV;

“We wanted to explore women’s purchasing habits, as EV has been developed to provide education and access to aesthetic treatments, whilst providing a platform for practitioners to introduce themselves to consumers. As our research has highlighted, reviews are heavily relied upon when making treatment choices, and aesthetic practitioners must be vigilant towards online reputation management.

“While experts may be familiar with the problems posed by fake reviews (and in more serious cases, digital sabotage), they may not see these issues—that influence whether a woman chooses an aesthetic practitioner or not—as easy to counteract. This is where EV can help. We believe in transparency and thoroughly vet our partners, offering medical aesthetic experts a reputable online presence which is essential in order to safeguard aesthetic practices and build trust with consumers.

“EV mitigates the issues that could deter patients in the overcrowded aesthetic market, and risk patients being better engaged by practitioners with little (or no) medical qualifications, but more shrewd digital acumen.”

EV’s experts caution that younger patients may overestimate their digital savviness in assessing potentially harmful practitioners. Despite carrying out due diligence online, 29% of women aged 18-49 indicated they would not be put off by bad reviews, compared with just 18% of over 50s.

The data also showed that media attention on non-surgical treatment continues to influence decision-making and awareness, with seven out of 10 women saying they’d abandon pursuing aesthetic treatment as a result of the media attention generated by horror stories of ‘botched jobs.’ Despite the increased awareness, only one in five women recognise discount incentives—a hallmark of unethical marketing practice—as potential red flags, leading experts to say more work is necessary to convey the recognition of ethical marketing and help patients avoid cowboy practitioners.

According to Aesthetic Plastic Surgeon and EV Editorial Panel Member Mr Ash Mosahebi;

“This research shows that older women rely more on friends or family recommendations, so might be less likely to fall prey to suspect online offers and supposed trends.

“Ultimately, what is most alarming of all, is how few in total recognise serious warning flags such as financial incentives to undergo treatment. EV’s mission for transparency is what is thoroughly needed in a sector which can be predatory, particularly in the unregulated Wild West that is the Web.”

EV, whose digital solutions—including fully integrated online consultation and booking solutions—are tailored to support aesthetic practitioners, say that clinics need to refine their strategies to meet the challenges of standing out in a crowded market, and that rethinking advertising is key.  EV Spokesperson Raffi Eghiayan says;

“Although traditional advertising efforts (such as London Underground posters and television adverts) may be helpful for brand awareness, 98% of women say these methods are unlikely to impact their decision making when purchasing aesthetic treatments. As a result, EV experts conclude that digital spend—social media and digital content including online news outlets—offer better return on investment than traditional print or broadcast advertising to promote aesthetic practitioners. Demonstrating expertise through unbiased third-party resources, such as trusted media publications either online or via mainstream channels, is essential to set practitioners apart from the prevalence of ‘horror stories.”

The data showed minimal variation in women’s views about purchasing aesthetic treatments across economic backgrounds, demonstrating that the uptake of patient safety messaging is not influenced by income, which may contradict previously held beliefs about patients’ awareness of safety issues. Experts from the online platform say it’s crucial that all measures taken to raise greater awareness target women across the economic spectrum.