Unlike most other types of medical practice where insurance picks up some or all of the tab, "These procedures are out of pocket, totally," says Elizabeth Woodcock, a specialist in medical practice management at Woodcock and Associates in Atlanta, and a contributor to Cosmetic Surgery Times. "Competition is key, and doctors are competing for the patient's dollar."
Internet plays a big role
"Patients used to stop at the Yellow Pages," he continues. "Now they go to a dozen Web sites. They do their shopping on the Internet instead of going door-to-door. Four years ago, less than 10 percent of my patients came from such sources. Now it's more like 30 percent and growing," he says.
"We spend a fair amount of attention so patients can see the results and see the procedures, post-op care and possible complications."
As long as it's ethical
Practitioners say the type of advertising is less important than its ethical component. Beyond "bait-and-switch" techniques of using different or unrealistic photographic models or manipulating lights and poses in "before" and "after" pictures, some ads may go so far as to make claims that just aren't true.
"Patients are being misled," he says plainly. "They're being hyped on magic treatments — tighten the skin, get rid of stretch marks or cellulite. What they're not being told is that these procedures aren't proven or they have limited efficacy or that they're not being used anymore."
Dr. Coleman agrees.
"The minute someone is even somewhat misleading, that's a line. It's guaranteeing something or making claims that can't be verified."