When it comes to pricing common cosmetic-surgery procedures, local economic factors trump the usually tried-and-true laws of supply and demand.
That’s the main finding of a new study headed by Subhas Gupta, M.D., chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Loma Linda (Calif.) University. The study shows a correlation between costs of cosmetic surgery procedures and local economic factors such as the cost to own or rent real estate, cost of living and the population size of a geographic region. Pricing also correlated with household income and per-capita income, but far less significantly.
“Having trained plastic surgery residents for the past 16 years, I am frequently asked about choosing a location to practice,” Dr. Gupta tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. “It has always seemed that choosing to practice where one wishes to live is a smart idea, but younger surgeons have long feared their ability to break into markets heavily populated with plastic surgeons. We proposed to see if traditional economic laws of supply and demand applied.”
Dr. Gupta’s Results
To arrive at these conclusions, the research team randomly selected 10 plastic surgery practices from each of 15 U.S. cities of various population sizes. They looked at the average prices of breast augmentation, breast lift, tummy tuck, eyelid surgery and facelifts in each city and compared that information with economic and demographic statistics.
As it turns out, the researchers found no association between procedure costs and the density in number of plastic surgeons — so the supply-and-demand factor was pretty much nullified as a causative factor. Prices remained high in cities with high surgeon-to-patient ratios, such as New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
“Other factors that account for the deviation of plastic-surgery pricing from the supply-and-demand model include regional culture, ease of acquiring service and social perceptions of cosmetic surgery,” Dr. Gupta says. “As the demand for cosmetic surgery has increased, physicians from non-core aesthetic specialties such as obstetrics, general surgery and primary care have assumed roles as cosmetic physicians. By offering to perform procedures on patients at a fraction of the average cost, they have driven down the cost of cosmetic procedures, contributing to the deviation in the supply-and-demand model. Overall, procedure pricing is driven by a combination of local economic factors, consumer demand and surgeon supply.”
The study was published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal.