opens IMAGE file What did we do before we had the Internet? What better resource to help you figure out where to get a pizza late at night, find a new hairdresser or…evaluate the strengths of a plastic surgeon?
Yes and no. Online reviews of plastic surgeons can be helpful if you’re considering a cosmetic procedure. But in some ways, their ability to assist you in locating the best plastic surgeon here in New York, or anywhere else, is limited.
Here are some things you should know about online reviews of opens in a new windowplastic surgeons.
Information from Community Sites
It may be interesting to read patient reviews on general information websites such as Yelp and Citysearch, but do so with a critical eye. If you take a look at some of the back pages of these web properties, you’ll see they admit they are unable to validate a reviewer’s identity or determine whether information provided is accurate.
In addition, when a cosmetic surgeon “claims” his or her business and beefs up their profile, sites like Yelp and Citysearch trust the doctor to supply true, complete and relevant information. As you can imagine, what you’ll find on sites like these is limited and variable—board certification, years in practice and other tidbits you should know may or may not be there.
Reviews Available on Medical Sites
By specifically targeting the healthcare arena, sites like Healthgrades and RateMDs generally offer more relevant and complete information on plastic surgeons than general sites. But here again, there’s no way to know that someone writing a review of a cosmetic surgeon is actually a patient. Even the very popular RealSelf, focused exclusively on cosmetic procedures, is limited in its ability to verify that reviewers are actual patients of the doctors they write about.
There’s another thing to know about sites that offer reviews. Cosmetic surgeons can participate for free or buy into various ways to increase their visibility on the site. If you see a doctor featured very prominently, they have paid for their positioning.
Finally, it’s helpful to consider that cosmetic surgery patients vary widely in their outlook. Some seek a procedure or two to fine tune their looks, then get on with life. At the other end of the spectrum are people who are never satisfied. Which are more likely to review their experiences online? It’s hard to know.
There is Helpful Information Online
Don’t feel discouraged—there IS good information available online to those who will spend a little time at the computer.
You can start by visiting the American Board of Plastic Surgery website and learn why certification by the ABPS is the gold standard for plastic surgeons. This is one requirement you should have for the doctor you choose.
Next, search online for your state’s medical board or health department where information on actions against licensed physicians is stored. In New York, the opens in a new windowDepartment of Health offers information here. While terminology may differ state to state, it’s relatively easy to find these sites and look up whether a plastic surgeon has had complaints filed against him or her.
Finally, if you evaluate a cosmetic surgeon’s website carefully, there should be much you can learn.
- What does the surgeon’s complete background look like? Does he or she have great training at prestigious schools and many years of experience?
- Does the surgeon belong to professional societies that require ABPS certification and ongoing education, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery?
- What does the website say about the rest of the staff? Are they well trained? Have they been working together for a good amount of time?
- If the surgeon uses an ambulatory surgical facility, how is it credentialed? And does the surgeon have privileges at an accredited hospital nearby?
- Do the before and after photos indicate the surgeon gets good results?
- Is the plastic surgeon called upon to share his or her knowledge? Do they teach, volunteer, consult or give interviews?
No amount of online research can substitute for what you can find out in person in your consultation if you take a detailed list of questions with you and trust your instincts. But every journey starts somewhere, and it’s natural to begin on the Internet. Just be sure to give plenty of thought to what you find there.
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