Why plastic surgeons are leaders in using the web to talk with patients

Plastic surgery is a competitive field, and as such, is a leader in using social media for marketing.

Just go to YouTube, for instance, and you’ll find a plethora of plastic surgeons vying for your business.

But in an interesting progression, they’ve also taken the lead on “e-consultations,” using Skype and other video conferencing tools to interact with patients with the hope of bringing them to their practice.

Whereas professional organizations like the American Academy of Family Physicians require that online interactions be done over a secure site, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has no such policy. It’s pretty much the online version of the Wild West.

Connecting with an actual doctor, and getting an online quote for a procedure, are both appealing concepts — and foreign for many patients. Although there are many issues to be worked out, like offering advice over the web to someone you’ve never met and ensuring patient privacy, it’s clear that plastic surgeons have been the most aggressive physicians to utilize the web for marketing.

They have no choice. As one surgeon remarked, “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.” Nothing like a little competition to spur progress among doctors.

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  • http://www.patmosemergiclinic.com Robert Berry, MD

    The reason plastic surgeons are so patient-centric is that their patients are paying them directly – they have to satisfy their patients. This is true of any organization where the buyer and customer are the same person.

    Family physicians have to satisfy third party payers who bring them panels of patients. Everything about their practice is geared to third party payers including how the irrelevancies they have to document to be maximally compensated and software they purchase to settle accounts with these payers. The needs and desires of the patients take a backseat. After all, “he who pays the piper call the tune.”

    If primary care docs were paid directly, more creative ways would be developed to attend to their needs – like skypeing office visits so patients wouldn’t have to come to the office when they don’t feel well but are not sick enough to be hospitalized. Say for example for acute gastroenteritis. When was the last time you have vomiting and diarrhea. The last thing you would want to do is get out of bed. Have someone come to you with IV fluids, IV ondansetron and people will pay directly for it. It costs over $1000 for such a visit to the ER. Surely, doctors could make this happen for patients for much less than this if patients paid directly and inane regulations (like requiring secure internet connections between consenting adults) were abolished.

    Put the patients first by putting them in control of their healthcare dollars. Healthcare would then become more rational and humane.