Marketing hype in cosmetic surgery

Hype. Spin. Puffery. Exaggerated claims. Call it what you will – there is a lot of it out there in the world of cosmetic surgery. Unlike most other fields of medicine, the commercial influences on cosmetic surgery and aesthetic medicine have changed the traditional doctor-patient-medical supplier relationship – and not for the better.Where does the hype come from?

1. Marketers of new technologies: Claims of wonderful new technology that works “better than anything that has come before” should always be viewed with caution. Most progress is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Laser-assisted liposuction is a great example of marketing hype getting way ahead of what has been scientifically proven. For example, is there any solid data that has been published in a reputable journal showing that laser-assisted liposuction tightens the skin? Nope. Yet, claims of skin tightening are all over the internet.

2. Marketers of “new procedures”: It’s become fashionable for physicians to put their name on a variation of a standard surgical technique. This is especially true for the various forms of mini-facelifts. Call it a “fill-in-the-blank” lift using some cutesy name, and market the heck out of it – and patients will seem to flock to the door. But, as we’ve discussed in earlier chapters of this blog, mini operations usually have mini results – and subsequent disappointment for the patient.

3. Commercial Media: Take for example, the various websites that claim to be give lists of the “best surgeon in town” or “top cosmetic surgeons in the state”. Usually these are paid listings. The only qualification required is that the physician pays the bills for this marketing exposure!

The same is true with many of the local lifestyle magazines. Did you ever notice that the surgeons that are awarded “best surgeon” or who are featured on the cover by these magazines are typically the ones with the biggest advertising budgets? Hmmm….

And don’t even get me started on some of the over-the-top hyperbole seen on some surgeons’ websites. The descriptions make it sound like they could part the Red Sea, or walk on water! Take it with a grain of salt, people!

So, what’s a consumer to do?

It boils down to old-fashioned research.

1. Ask around – get referrals from people you trust – your own doctor, OR nurses, close personal friends that have had a good experience with a local plastic surgeon. See who has good “word of mouth” endorsements.

2. Check out the ASAPS website (www.surgery.org), the ASPS (www.plasticsurgery.org) or the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons (www.fsps.org) website to see some of the possible people you should interview in your neighborhood.

3. Interview several highly experienced, Board-certified Plastic Surgeons who do your procedure of interest routinely. Make notes and compare.

4. Look at plenty of “before and after” photos with a critical eye – we’ve discussed how to do this in an earlier chapter of this blog.

5. Has the staff had surgery by that surgeon? Do you like how their results look?

6. Does the surgeon have a list of actual patients that you can speak with?

7. Do you like the “feel” or “vibe” of the office? Do you feel sure that these people will look after you if you should happen to have a complication from your procedure?

8. While price is important to many people, don’t always be tempted by the lowest price. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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