Time for media pundits and—in the plastic surgery field—physicians who publish regularly online to offer predictions on future directions in aesthetic medicine.
I prefer to not dwell on this or that procedure or technology that is due to be popular in 2010. My predictions cover the challenge of marketing a practice in these interesting times, the impact of quackery and quack scientific research and procedures, patient safety, and so on.
In the realm of marketing your practice, 2010 brings to mind the days of the Oil Crisis in the mid-1970s when automobile makers had to resort to clever advertising models to sell their midsized, gas-guzzling sedan models. The gas-guzzler in this analogy is the big-ticket plastic surgery procedure, with the consumer keeping a tight fist around her spendable cash. You need to reinvent your marketing efforts in a changing environment.
Although many physicians shy away from active marketing, bring yourself to prospective patients who have money. Public seminars and education via office-based presentations can bring in patients with means. You simply need to show them why they should come to you.
(In 2010, we will increase the number of marketing-related tips and techniques-type articles published in PSP in order to help inspire and guide you in implementing best practices in your practice.)
Obstacles confront you in creating a realistic result in the minds of your patients. These sales gimmicks include television- and online-based commercials for plastic surgeons, and entertainment-based programs such as Nip/Tuck.
Part of the patient’s education should include statements from you debunking the myths and lies associated with the marketing of plastic surgery to society at large.
Be very careful in how you conduct your research. In the past few years—and with a couple of high-profile cases of botched or unsigned research projects to fuel its fire—many in the media, government, and other overseers have started examining how all medical disciplines and specialties manage and authenticate research and clinical study projects.
See also “The Ostrich Theory Awards” by Jeffrey Frentzen in the January 2008 issue of PSP.
The legal profession should not be placed in a position to dictate the way you conduct your research and operate your practice. As a group, you should establish your own guidelines. If you don’t, the lawyers will.
Due to the subjective nature of plastic surgery results, legal problems are part of the game. The best way to prevent legal issues is to practice safe and judicious surgery following rigorous and safe guidelines. These are the sort of guidelines that could be applied to all procedures in all countries.
Speaking of the international scene, medical tourism is on the rise. A percentage of patients who have gone overseas for plastic surgery come back and will seek you out to correct errors and complications created by an under- or unqualified practitioner.
Do everything you can to inform your patients of the potential dangers and pitfalls—and upside, if one is present. Rely on the facts to tell them about the patient safety issues in those countries. Ask them to inform friends and relatives who intend to go overseas.
NEW TECHNOLOGY “TRAP”
It is a wonderful feeling to be on the cutting edge, but dangerous to be on the bleeding edge. Over the past year, multiple “revolutionary” technologies have appeared, and some have claimed increased results with little downtime. This is an oxymoron. Beware of getting expensive and unproven technology just because the practice down the street has it.
There are half-a-dozen new liposuction platforms, and only one or two will survive. Yet, many patients and surgeons will be disappointed—and patients injured— while these new technologies and devices will rise and fall on their merits. Wait and see is a good mantra to follow.
Joseph Niamtu, Barbara Adolph, and Rudi Unterthiner contributed to this article.