Cosmetic Surgery and YouTube
You had to ask!?
That was our first reaction when we discovered a study had been conducted to determine whether YouTube is a good research tool for prospective cosmetic surgery patients. Having seen videos posted by various practices—including the one where a cosmetic surgeon dances and mugs for the camera while her patient is on the table—we have had serious doubts about the quality of information provided by the platform.
On the other hand, we know that in busy markets like New York, cosmetic surgery patients and cosmetic surgeons use every opportunity they can to find each other. So we were actually pleased that researchers at Rutgers University evaluated YouTube videos and published the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The research team used a tool called “discern” – a questionnaire designed to help consumers objectively evaluate the quality of information published about health treatment choices. Not surprisingly, at least in our view, the 240 YouTube videos rated by the team received a score of just over two on a scale of one to five, one meaning serious shortcomings and five meaning minimal shortcomings. In a discussion about their results, the team noted that YouTube cosmetic surgery videos tended to present biased views, provide less than objective assessments of risks vs. benefits and include little information on provider qualifications.
Marketing a Cosmetic Surgery Practice
There are several tricky things about marketing cosmetic surgery. One reflects the market where a practice is located. New York is probably one of the most challenging markets: competition for patients is fierce, media outlets abound and it’s generally very expensive to operate in The Big Apple. It’s easy to see why some cosmetic surgeons are tempted to go all out on every platform they can find.
A challenge that applies to all plastic surgeons is the need to publish accurate, complete material. Because cosmetic procedures are elective and carry at least some risk, it’s critical to present information that’s unbiased while conveying the fact that cosmetic surgery is generally safe and offers meaningful benefits. It’s not always easy to walk that fine line. But every cosmetic surgeon must do the best possible job he or she can—without resorting to hype and hyperbole or leaving key information out.
Good Sources of Information
So what do we advise New York cosmetic surgery patients when they ask about online information?
When people are just getting started, we suggest they research the procedure they’re considering. Good places to start are the websites of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Yes, these two groups are pro-plastic surgery, but they also adhere to the highest standards when it comes to distributing information about procedures. And they also accept only board certified plastic surgeons as officers, members and contributors.
If patients have some interest in fairly technical information, they can browse Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the professional journal of the ASPS. The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s PubMed database can provide informative research results if patients are specific when using the search function.
For people who want unbiased news about cosmetic surgery without a lot of medical jargon, Science Daily can be a good site to visit. It has published the latest science news for more than 20 years.
When it’s time to choose a plastic surgeon, we suggest patients understand what certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery means. It’s also important to research a plastic surgeon’s training and make sure he or she has admitting privileges at an accredited hospital. Reading about other staff at the practice and surgical suite accreditation can be instructive, too, and people can research whether a plastic surgeon has faced legal issues by connecting with their state’s medical board.
As we compile and present material about cosmetic surgery in New York with us, our number one goal is patient education. We strive to give objective information on procedures, including recovery time and risks. Even in our real patient stories, we urge people to share their experience and steer away from creating glowing reviews. Yes, we have posted videos on YouTube, but even in those our emphasis is education, not hype or even persuasion.
If you should decide to come in and see us, we’ll use this same approach. We’ll examine you, tell you everything we know about the procedure you’re thinking about—pro and con—and tell you honestly what we believe you can expect based on thirty years of experience. The ultimate decision is yours. There will be no pressure from us.