RealSelf CEO Speaks Out on the Importance of Board Certification

Reprinted from Plastic Surgery Practice magazine. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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By Tom Seery, founder and CEO of RealSelf.com

As founder of the cosmetic surgery reviews and community site RealSelf.com, 4 years ago I made a controversial decision to remove 3,000 doctors from our Web site and doctor directory because they were not board-certified in a cosmetic medicine specialty.  As a site whose primary purpose is to empower consumers to make informed decisions about cosmetic, elective procedures, this decision was based on our inherent belief that training, credentials, and board certifications matter when it comes to patient satisfaction and safety.

This belief is proving to be fact.

Our data indicates that the highest degrees of satisfaction and most reliable outcomes occur when patients are in the hands of physicians with proven and documented training in cosmetic surgery procedures.

RealSelf.com has analyzed tens of thousands of self-reported consumer reviews across hundreds of cosmetic procedures that were posted to the site.  Our data shows patient satisfaction rates are 15% higher on average among those who had procedures performed by doctors that qualify for participation on RealSelf – board-certified aesthetic experts, versus doctors from other fields of medicine.  For instance, ER doctors are legally allowed to do liposuction, and gynecologists may perform breast augmentation, and even psychologists are offering Botox.

Many of the most popular cosmetic procedures, such as Botox and liposuction, had greater than 25% higher reported satisfaction rates when performed by board-certified doctors, versus non-specialized counterparts.

Taking a closer the look at the data, we specifically analyzed reviews among the most common injectable treatments, and the results were even more staggering. For Botox – which has more than 800 reviews on RealSelf.com – board-certified doctors scored 27% higher in satisfaction ratings. Juvéderm scored 25% higher. Even more significantly, Restylane was 36% higher in favor of board-certified physicians, followed by Radiesse at 35%.

The notable differences within the injectables category are of high interest, because these procedures are among the most widely recognized by the mainstream public. Injectables are increasingly becoming commoditized through coupons, group buying specials, and social media marketing, often putting “buy now” pressure on consumers instead of encouraging research and doctor screening efforts prior to making decisions.

Because of the above, education is crucial as the injectable category continues to expand. Would-be patients should understand that just because someone offers injectables as part of their services, it does not guarantee the practitioner has the skill set, knowledge, and expertise to produce the greatest and most reliable outcomes possible. The best way to guarantee favorable results and minimize risk is to see a board-certified physician with proven training – and for the first time, we now have industry data to back this up.

In addition to injectables, we also examined some of the most popular surgical procedures, and again saw consistently higher patient satisfaction. One of the most notable increases was for liposuction, which jumped from a 71% to a 92% satisfaction rate when performed by board-certified surgeons versus all providers.

Eyelid surgery – which has more than 470 reviews on RealSelf.com – showed an 18% rate increase. This was followed by breast implants at a 15% increase, Rhinoplasty at 14% and both breast lifts and facelifts at 9% gains.

What does this all mean, and why does it matter?

It means that for many cosmetic surgery procedures, consumers are reporting much better results from care delivered by board-certified physicians specialized in cosmetic surgery, and this should play a factor in their decision-making process when choosing their provider. Bottom line, the data shows board certification matters, and as the cosmetic surgery industry continues to broaden and reach more consumers, this is a crucial educational message to spread.

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