Andrew T. Cohen, MD, FACS, succeeds in a tough market with referrals and reconstructive work
Andrew T. Cohen, MD, FACS, has built a practice that definitely has a top-tier family kind of focus. As one among four brothers who became surgeons through the inspiration of their father—Samuel Cohen, MD—he not only provides house calls to postoperative patients, but he also works with other physicians in various specialties to offer the best patient outcome.
“For me, medicine is a family business,” he explains. “At 13 years of age, I had my first operating-room experience. The first procedure I witnessed was an appendectomy. I knew then I wanted to perform surgery.
“I knew soon after when I saw an immediate breast reconstruction following a mastectomy that the more challenging job was for the plastic surgeon,” he continues. “I knew then that plastic surgery was the right choice for me.”
Today, Cohen maintains a private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif—one of the most competitive geographic markets in the country for plastic surgeons. He has been able to stay ahead of the pack with a 70% aesthetic/30% reconstructive breakdown by keeping the family business idea at the forefront of his practice platform.
“I knew I had to battle the competitive environment in plastic surgery,” he explains. “Add this to all of the televised appearances and print press about plastic surgery in Beverly Hills, the decision to come to Beverly Hills might be tough.
“I came here because I wanted the challenge of coming to the competitive market of Beverly Hills, and I wanted to live near my family,” he explains. “It is important for my kids to be near their grandparents.”
The Commitment to Education
Cohen believes that extensive training and education must be the first focus for any practice. He received his doctorate in medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, and completed his plastic surgery and general surgery residency training at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif. He was also selected to complete a highly competitive fellowship in Aesthetic and Oculoplastic Surgery at Paces Plastic Surgery in Atlanta under the direction of Rod Hester, MD; Foad Nahai, MD; Mark Codner, MD; and Clinton McCord, Jr, MD.
The Out-of-the-Gate Action Plan
Once Cohen completed his education, he focused on his board certification to raise his credibility level. Then, to get started out of the gate in Beverly Hills, he employed a multi-pronged strategy to win the respect of both colleagues and patients.
He built his practice’s foundation by accepting many emergency-department calls and by developing an affiliation with two hospitals—Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif—both of which refer patients to his practice. Second, he signed up for an insurance plan to bring in breast-reduction and breast-reconstruction patients.
A significant number of his reimbursed medical patients ultimately return to him for elective fee-for-service procedures. He attributes this to his ability to provide strong communication and excellent service all the way through his patients’ preoperative and postoperative care.
Third, he developed referral relationships with physicians from various specialties—including pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and dermatology—who were not interested in performing the types of procedures that he could provide. Popular referral procedures include breast reconstruction and body lift. He also developed a referral arm from a high-end local spa.
“Word-of-mouth referrals through colleagues and patients that I have treated offer the best example of dedicating my marketing focus to true patient care and credibility among professionals, which is most important to me,” Cohen says.
While he believes that hands-on professional care is the best approach to marketing, he believes it is also worthwhile to invest in marketing. Cohen wanted to avoid the lack of credibility that may be associated with television advertising. Instead, he launched a practice Web site because he knew that prospective patients often go to the Internet for more educational information after hearing about a procedure via another medium.
The Internet has proven successful for him. He also believes that a regular newsletter designed to keep his patients better informed about his practice’s latest offerings can be effective.
Staying up to Date
Regardless of the marketing venue, Cohen finds it crucial to stay up to date with what’s on the cutting edge of new technology and new procedures. He recently purchased three lasers to treat scars, resurface the skin, and remove hair. Laser hair removal has become an extremely popular procedure at his practice.
Cohen’s favorite procedures are the body lift and the mini facelift. He also performs short-scar facelifts and breast surgery. Although he favors the standard Weiss-pattern breast augmentation, he has found the vertical mastopexy to be appropriate for some cases. He is selecting the endoscopic transanxillary armpit more and more often these days. In terms of combination procedures, the “mommy makeover” is quite popular at the Cohen practice.
Patient comforts are important to him. He visits patients the first night after their surgeries and the next morning during their stay at the hospital, an overnight facility, or at home. He uses postoperative pain pumps in all cases, and he provides medication preoperatively and postoperatively to help patients avoid nausea. He also informs his patients about Arnica montana, the herbal extract that helps limit bruising.
Good Business Sense
From its location to its focus and financial management, Cohen’s 1300-square-foot practice located in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers—a leading Los Angeles Medical Center—makes good business sense. The practice focuses on elective aesthetic plastic surgery, noninvasive and minimally invasive procedures, and reimbursed reconstructive plastic surgery.
Cohen’s decision to bring reconstructive plastic surgery into the practice was not a difficult one. “Reimbursed medical cases made good business sense to me,” he says. “It is not only a demonstration of my good will, but it is recognized by my patients. Reimbursed plastic surgery helps make me a better surgeon. It is the bread and butter of my practice.”
Because his practice accepts many financed or reimbursed cases, Cohen has become very efficient at managing finances. He found a strong biller and developed successful follow-up protocols. He also encourages reimbursed patients to actively work with their third-party payors by asking them to seek their payors’ approval for surgery.
His Role in the Community
Cohen is currently a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the California Society of Plastic Surgeons, and the Los Angeles Society of Plastic Surgeons. He teaches continuing medical education courses on the following topics: “Reducing the Complication Risk for Breast Augmentation Patients,” “Difficult Breast Cases,” “Facial Rejuvenation” (oculoplastic, midface, nasiofold, cheek, chin, neck, facial implants), and “Abdominal Wound Closure.” He also teaches general surgery residents at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and interviews incoming residents at Loma Linda University.
He also participates in medical research studies and serves as a clinical instructor to produce outcomes in the areas of breast complications and midface surgical techniques. In the past, he completed mission work for the Saint Martin, Argentina, University del Plata in the area of cleft lip and cleft palate surgery.
His lectures, research, and clinical instruction activities were introduced through numerous medical organizations, including the Cedars-Sinai Division of Plastic Surgery, the American Academy of Facial Plastic Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons, the American Association for Hand Surgeons, and the California Society of Plastic Surgery.
Personal Health and Success
“There’s a difference between ‘serious’ dreams and making the dreams come true,” Cohen says. For him, quality of life has a direct impact on his ability to perform the best surgery and maintain a successful practice. “Surgery can be taxing on my body. To be able to perform the best surgery and do it for my lifetime, I believe exercise is crucial,” he explains.
To that end, he actively participates in 5-km and 10-km races (he is scheduled to do a half-marathon this winter), he meets with a fitness trainer twice per week, he gets 8 hours of sleep per night, and he eats small meals throughout the day. At the same time, he maintains a life outside of the operating room through hobbies such as traveling, skiing, and scuba diving.
Cohen wishes to follow the examples of his mentors—Codner, Nahai, Hester, McCord, and many others. He plans to lecture on topics that are important to him, such as breast augmentation, facial rejuvenation, and surgery after massive weight loss. He hopes to be published more, and he ultimately plans to teach 1 day per week.
“I feel the key to a successful practice is to treat every patient as if he or she is a cosmetic patient. This has served me well in growing my practice and reputation in a busy city like Beverly Hills. Whether a dog-bite, breast-reduction, or breast-augmentation patient, all are treated equally, with personal care and attention”
Lesley Ranft is a contributing writer for Plastic Surgery Products. For additional information, please contact [email protected]