As I enter my third decade in surgical practice, I sometimes find myself wondering if I have become an old curmudgeon. I say that because I believe in my heart that I offer state of the art care, and yet I am constantly barraged by the newest gadget or technology that just makes me wonder why it’s necessary at all. Here is another example of that challenge.
A surgeon in the hypercompetetive market of New York decided to create an app that helps patients find their potential doctor.http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/business/smallbusiness/cosmetic-surgery-thats-just-a-click-away.html?_r=1 The secondary streamlining that is supposedly enjoyed is a better educated patient that more realistically understands the cost of procedures, can share pictures, ask questions. All before a face to face consult. And for that “opportunity” the doctor only needs to pay $495 a month, or almost $6000 a year. I read this and simply scratch my head. I don’t get it.
First and foremost, I don’t understand what the patient gains. We already have this wonderful, powerful tool called the internet, that allows us to search for physician, surgery, or key phrase. Its algorithms are geographically weighted to make identification maximized for convenience, so finding a surgeon is not an issue. Once a potential physician is located, their websites already offer glowing lists of education, experience and accolades, as well as statements that help potential clients gain insight about style, aesthetics, or office mission. In today’s current SEO driven environment, the websites offer immediate and simple conduits to contact the office, ask questions, request a consult and investigate pricing. I have trouble believing an app can make that a more informed process.
Second, we have a number of websites that give a massive amount of information about procedures, doctors ratings, and cost. Realself.com has established itself as the go-to site for authentic, minimally biased conversations about surgical and nonsurgical treatments. Want to know how much a procedure should cost? It’s there. Want to find a surgeon? There. Want to know what patients think of a surgeon, and not just the surgeon-controlled testimonials that they select for their website? There. Want to see before and afters? There. Want to post a picture of your concern and see if you are a good candidate for a specific procedure? Its available on Realself.com, where you will get answers from multiple surgeons from across the nation. The beautiful thing about Realself.com is that docs are just answering questions without trying to simply win over that client, patients can post without significant filter, and the information is not misrepresented as often by the rants of the outlier scenarios.
The third thought that comes to mind is this creates yet another cyberspace interaction that takes away from actual human contact. Do we really need another digital storefront to contact a physician’s office without actually meeting them? I’m simply at a loss.
I truly believe there are more effective ways to select your surgeon. First, rely on word of mouth. Friends, family, or the endorsements of your existing physicians are still your best resource. Second, consider the total volume of comments, endorsements, and ratings that are available on resources like physician facebook pages, google ratings/comments, Realself.com, RateMD.com, etc. We all have a comment or two that attempts to torpedo a reputation from a fictitious patient, but the overwhelming majority of the site comments should speak to the integrity, honesty, and satisfied response of patients. And most importantly, pursue multiple face to face consults with your potential surgeon. There is no substitute. An effective consult should take all the time necessary to allay your fears, answer your questions, reinforce your feelings of trust, and mesh your ideal aesthetic. If you pursue more than one consult, it makes it easy to pick up on valuable nuances between offices that help you make a well informed choice. Patients should never leave a consult where they felt rushed, upsold, uninformed, or unempowered. I take an average of an hour with my new patients, because we need to get to know each other, develop a partnership, and even have a little fun in the process!