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Vanessa Bird: “Create a bond with your patient”

Create a bond with your patient. You’re going to need to work harder to put the patient at ease and encourage them to open up if they aren’t physically in front of you. Take time to make some ‘small talk’ and find out a little background on them in the way that you would during […]

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Create a bond with your patient. You’re going to need to work harder to put the patient at ease and encourage them to open up if they aren’t physically in front of you. Take time to make some ‘small talk’ and find out a little background on them in the way that you would during a face-to-face consultation. You can soon detect from their voice when they start to feel less nervous and more relaxed about opening up to you. Just because this is a remote consultation it doesn’t mean you should rush headlong into the main questions without the small talk. Work for that connection!


One of the consequences of the pandemic is the dramatic growth of Telehealth and Telemedicine. But how can doctors and providers best care for their patients when they are not physically in front of them? What do doctors wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office? How can Telehealth approximate and even improve upon the healthcare that traditional doctors’ visits can provide?

In this interview series, called “Telehealth Best Practices; How To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You” we are talking to successful Doctors, Dentists, Psychotherapists, Counselors, and other medical and wellness professionals who share lessons and stories from their experience about the best practices in Telehealth. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Bird, The Aesthetic Consultant.

Vanessa uses over 12 years Industry experience, knowledge and connections as The Aesthetic Consultant to understand the specific challenges faced by successful, high-profile aesthetic practitioners and clinics as she helps coach them to succeed in a competitive market. Working with clients in the U.K, America and the UAE Vanessa builds world-class luxury VIP Patient Experiences within clinics, dramatically increases sales revenue, maximizes patient retention and enhances their positioning and reputation in the aesthetic medical arena.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started selling high end capital equipment such as lasers and radio frequency devices to doctors, dermatologists, surgeons and clinics looking to introduce non-surgical aesthetic treatments over 12 years ago. Over the years I developed a little black book of experts and big names in the industry who loved working with me because I would teach them how to make money out of the devices they bought and provide exceptional customer care that would lead to greater patient retention. After a few years of being constantly asked to set up my own consultancy by my clients, that’s exactly what I did. Once that happened, we all made money.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Work expands to fill in the time available”. My University Professor told me this gem when I was studying Philosophy and basically it made me realise that if you have 3 weeks to do something, it’ll take you 3 weeks. If you have 24 hours, you’ll work hard to get it done in that 24 hours. This made me understand the importance of time management and I share this often with my clients to help them understand their need to focus and stop procrastinating.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I cannot name just one person as there have been so many who have offered support guidance and a friendly ear when I needed one. I’ve been immensely lucky to have so many good people around me who freely shared their expertise in setting up a business, creating a brand, marketing myself and just giving me a kick up the backside when I didn’t believe in myself. My network is strong and I am forever grateful to each and every one of them and endeavour to return the favour whenever I can.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how doctors treat their patients. Many doctors have started treating their patients remotely. Telehealth can of course be very different than working with a patient that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity because it allows more people access to medical professionals, but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you?

Having patient in front of you allows you to better identify what help they need. I tell my clients that often it’s what your patient is NOT telling you that you need to focus on. When they are in front of you it’s far easier to pick up on moods and body language, or even micro-pauses in conversation that are at odds with what is coming out of the patient’s mouth. That discrepancy allows you to turn your attention to what they are not saying, unearth their true concerns and hopefully better treat them as a result. You build a stronger connection face to face and this allows patients to open up more, which in turn enables you to build trust and dig a little deeper when carrying out your consultation.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a patient is not in the same space as the doctor?

When a patient is not in the same space, it’s harder to assess body language as most of the body (hands, feet etc) are hidden from you. You also may not be aware of people sitting in the same room listening to your patient and that in itself can restrict how much a patient opens up to you and in some ways can influence them negatively. Connections can be unstable and this can affect how much of a conversation you pick up, especially if the line drops a lot. You get frustrated and your patient gets frustrated when communication fails. You also miss out on the opportunity to physically touch and assess your patient which plays a very important part in delivering your service.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

First and foremost, preparation is key. Ensure you have everything you need in advance of the consultation that can assist you. Whether that’s patient files, patient history, reference materials, products or medications, you need to be prepared and your patient also needs to be prepared. Ensure you take time to share documents and files with each other prior to and during the consultation so you both understand what you are discussing and have the reference materials to hand.

Create a bond with your patient. You’re going to need to work harder to put the patient at ease and encourage them to open up if they aren’t physically in front of you. Take time to make some ‘small talk’ and find out a little background on them in the way that you would during a face-to-face consultation. You can soon detect from their voice when they start to feel less nervous and more relaxed about opening up to you. Just because this is a remote consultation it doesn’t mean you should rush headlong into the main questions without the small talk. Work for that connection!

Listen to the words they are using to find out what type of communicator they are. We all know there are three types of learners, but did you know there are three types of communicator too? The communications types are Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic and the words your patients use to express themselves will tell you what category they fall into.

Visual communicators use phrases like “The way I look at it…”, “I’ve got the blues”, “I see your point” and so on. When you communicate you need to use visual reference points so they better understand you. For example, say “I see what you mean” or ‘Looking at what you’ve said I envisage…”

Auditory Communicators may say things like, “I like the sound of that”, or “My head is banging” . When you are communicating with an Auditory person be sure to reference noises or sounds when describing things. A good example of this would be you explaining that a medication will “ quieten down that drumming noise in your head” . A Kinaesthetic Communicator references how things feel. They may tell you that the pain is “burning” or their aches “feel like being pierced with hot knives”. When you communicate with a Kinaesthetic you should use phrases such as wanting to ‘“lend a hand” or “reach out” to them or talk about a treatment wrapping them in a warm hug.

Recap! It’s very easy to assume that your patient has fully understood what you’ve said, especially if they aren’t sitting in front of you. The best way to avoid any misunderstandings on both sides is to go over what they said to you, getting acknowledgement from them at every stage. That way you can identify any misunderstandings or grey areas immediately and rectify them. Then once the consultation is completed, reiterate your points, gaining further acknowledgement from your patient that they understand fully what was discussed.

Allow enough time. If either of you feel rushed you’re going to be aware of the clock and not give each other your full attention. Your patient may feel you’re not listening or their issue isn’t of importance and they may gloss over concerns so they don’t take up too much of your time. You may detect that your patient is short of time and wants to end the call as soon as possible. Nobody likes to feel like a number and everyone wants to feel relaxed and not rushed. Keep to schedule, ensure your patient has confirmation of the start and end times and plan the call so your time is used wisely.

Can you share a few ways that Telehealth can create opportunities or benefits that traditional in-office visits cannot provide? Can you please share a story or give an example?

One thing I have noticed is that working remotely opens up the diary more than in-clinic visits. Having a call or video call with a patient means you don’t have to wait for them to walk into your office, take their coat off, put their bag down, wait to be offered a drink as that can happen during the call. It may not sound like much of a time saving but 10 of those a day really does add up . Eradicating this frees up valuable time and enables you to ‘see’ more patients in a given time period. It also gives patients more flexibility. They can arrange a Telehealth call without having to arrange childcare (something they would need to do if they visit your office). They won’t get stuck in traffic or have problems parking. You can open up your diary to accommodate earlier or later patient calls due to your ability to work remotely from home. Let’s also not forget that some patients are very intimidated about attending your office. Those patients will much prefer remote consultations,

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help facilitate Telehealth. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

File sharing! Having instant access to files that can be shared with the patient is often better than in-office sharing. I also believe that patients having the ability to upload Blood Pressure readings or other measurements makes them take some responsibility in their own treatment plan and keeps them engaged far more than they would for in-office visits.

If you could design the perfect Telehealth feature or system to help your patients, what would it be?

My clients work in aesthetics so the ability to have all treatments and skincare products uploaded with software able to recommend the best options for consideration would be so useful. Often doctors forget about lesser used treatments and on occasion get lazy and just prescribe their usual ‘go to’ solution. Just because things aren’t used as often it doesn’t make them any less effective.

Are there things that you wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office?

Absolutely! Patients need to understand that the recommendations and treatment plan they receive is designed to deliver the best results in the safest way and are to be followed exactly. They aren’t a ‘suggestion’. We need patients to use whatever face cream or product prescribed as frequently as prescribed and not just when they remember.

Patients need to understand that things don’t change overnight and that they should not give up on a treatment plan just because they don’t see or feel better within a couple of days. My clients always tell they patients to reach out with any questions or concerns, no matter how trivial, as it’s better to nip them in the bud that allow them to carry on and compromise results.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring people together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

In aesthetics we are embracing VR, AR and Mixed Reality. We use skin analysis cameras that not only photograph the skin of a patient and split it into 7 levels of analysis we can use to diagnose and treat with, but they are now bringing out the ‘auto age’ function which enables us to show a patient how their skin will look in 10 or more years time IF they do not tackle their problem. Manufacturers are also working on smartphone versions of this software so that patients can access their images and see for themselves how well their skin prescription is working whilst their physician is looking at the same images a hundred miles away.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

I do worry that we will lose our ‘human’ touch. We are social animals and thrive with interaction. Videos, telephones, internet and VR help us keep in touch globally at any time day or night, but they are no replacement for the real thing. We need to feel chemistry, reach out and touch each other, create 3D experiences that incorporate sight, sound, touch and scent. We need to remember we are human and that patient often just need to connect with you.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Networking! I am passionate about networking in your industry and also outside of your industry. I am a great believer in getting to know people and having a genuine interest in what they do, whether it’s similar to you or the polar opposite. Networking because you have a genuine interest in someone or something always works out the best rather than coming at it because you expect or want something from it. You never know what may arise because you connected with someone, or indeed what opportunities you can create by reaching out to someone and helping them. People work together better as a team and a strong network helps create opportunities, brings support at times of need, sparks inspiration and also forges new friendships and partnerships.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit my website www.theaestheticconsultant.co.uk where you can find out more about what I do (& you may even find a link to my networking group). I’m also very active on instagram @theaestheticconsultant as well as being a regular weekly webinar expert for Wigmore Medical. Those webinars are free to anyone regardless of where you are in the world so drop by and hopefully I can share something with you that helps you greatly?

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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