Plastic surgeons are offering online consultations to potential patients at a rising rate. But is this safe?
Online consultations may soon replace traditional office visits for those curious about plastic surgery. And, some plastic surgeons are using these virtual meetings to compete for patients.
In less than a year, SurgeonHouseCall.com has recruited more than 50 doctors to answer questions posted by visitors. Through the site, prospective cosmetic surgery patients can submit their photos and medical history information to a panel of surgeons, who offer advice about various procedures – as well as competing price quotes.
The site is a more elaborate version of what has existed in the past few years, with individual surgeons willing to answer questions from patients through their own Websites before an office visit takes place. Across the country, a number of doctors have begun offering preliminary consultations via Skype, telephone or email. Doing so can put a patient at ease before they schedule an office visit, say advocates of the trend, noting that shy patients also feel more comfortable with a virtual meeting before seeing a surgeon in person.
SurgeonHouseCall.com, however, raises the bar for online consultations by flooding cosmetic customers with information and diagnoses that may not be exactly safe, since there is a serious lack of face time, and since some of the surgeons may be less than qualified to perform the procedures in question.
And, although many of the doctors eventually insist on an office visit prior to performing any surgery, industry insiders question the ethics of diagnosing people through the Internet as a way of drawing them in.
“Nothing is more true and correct than actually seeing a doctor in person,” patient consultant Angela Segal told The New York Times, adding that only a thorough, in-person visit can show the doctor what he needs to see. “You expect the doctor to trust the pictures, which is ridiculous.”
The site’s founder, Dr. Jason L. Mussman, is not board certified in plastic surgery, but insists that patients benefit from his service by getting input from multiple sources before agreeing to an operation.
“It changes the first in-person consultation, empowering the patient with knowledge of the procedure, decreased anxiety level and financial readiness,” he told The New York Times.
According to the Times, the site currently has 55 plastic surgeons from around the country on hand to consult patients.
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