It's almost hard to believe that the celebration of the new millennium was six years ago. The field of cosmetic surgery continues to evolve at a whirlwind pace. On Track wondered what factors are affecting cosmetic surgeons the most as the new century progresses.
We asked surgeons around the country what single factor — be it medical, business or legislative — impacted their practices the most during 2005. While the secondary factor for some doctors includes medical advancements such as new techniques in facelifts, and another said the weather — the recent hurricane season had given people pause to consider whether they should be spending disposable income on "vanity" — most of the cosmetic surgeons who spoke to On Track say the biggest factors impacting their offices in 2005 were business methods — with the Internet playing a major role.
CyberspaceIn Beverly Hills, California, Brent Moelleken, M.D., F.A.C.S., says an Internet glitch boosted his practice this year.
"I was presenting a paper on a technique I had developed to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons meeting, and somehow my abstract submission ended up on the Internet before it was actually presented.
"Consumers seem to be much more sophisticated and I actually had patients research the paper and come in with intelligent questions before I ever made the presentation."
Dr. Moelleken, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, says that sophistication helps surgeons who do quality work.
"People are getting much more sophisticated in checking out the credentials of the surgeons and looking at the quality of work they do. They like to see published results, rather than just touted claims."
In Herndon, Virginia, Michael J. Brown, M.D., says the increasing Internet savviness of potential patients is changing the way he approaches his practice, as well.
"If you want me to give you one word that had the biggest impact on my practice, that would be the Internet.
"The biggest impact for my practice — and anticipating the greatest impact as time passes — is that I launched another Web site — in fact two Web sites — dedicated to breast implant surgery.
"The site has about 2,400 photographs in it, all the frequently asked questions people ask, streaming video of the surgery itself, a consultation on tape so a person can actually sit there and hear all the risks of surgery and the details. I anticipate it will do very well nationally, as well as internationally."
Dr. Brown's sites are called "breastimplantvirginia" and "breastaugmentationvirginia."
"The sites have similar content, but not the same. I did that for saturation. The Internet is search engine-driven, so people will go to their search engines and either word they type in, I want to be found."
A surgeon for nine years, Dr. Brown relocated to Virginia in 2000 and started a completely cosmetic practice on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.
"I felt that if I could show people what I could do, they would come, and the expanding Internet use requires a different marketing approach.
"I live in a very tech-heavy area — very well-penetrated with computers, as you can imagine. Huge Internet companies are based here and by the statistics, I can see that people are all surfing while they are at work. I don't even have an ad in the phone book; I don't have an ad in the newspaper — it's all Internet-based."
Dr. Brown says the Internet-based marketing has a very specific result.
"All of a sudden my clientele is smarter, they are better read, better researched, and the consults are much faster because basically, they've made up their minds. They just want to know that I'm a nice guy. Once they meet me and confirm I'm a nice guy, they book their surgery, literally, within 30 minutes.