RealSelf promotes itself as the “world’s largest community for learning about and sharing information about plastic surgery, dermatology, dentistry” and a myriad of other health-related topics. Should the printed word on RS be taken as gospel when it comes to your most valuable asset – your health and well-being? Board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Caroline Glicksman weighs in on why following online advice isn’t always a good idea.
RealSelf, By the Numbers
There’s no debating that consumers have a desire to learn about plastic surgery. It may be that curiosity driving the popularity of RealSelf, a website where viewers can look at and submit reviews on a range of procedures and even find a plastic surgeon. The site covers a broad selection of topics and features questions, forums and answers – including a rating system. There is something about the system that people can’t seem to get enough of, says Dr. Caroline Glicksman. “RealSelf is is very popular among plastic surgery patients.”
Glicksman, who practices on the New Jersey shore, has watched people’s reaction to the site since it came online a few years ago. “The website itself reports about 9.3 million unique viewers per month.” She says the site claims to be a community for patients to get education and gain information about plastic surgery procedures.
Just the Facts
Glicksman says what’s important is that consumers know what is fact and what’s opinion when they search for information about plastic surgery. She says a consumer needs to know the credentials of the person posting the information, which she says is hard to decipher on RealSelf. “What patients really need to know, or consumers need is know, is that not all answers come from board certified, experienced plastic surgeons.”
Some of the material posted, according to Glicksman, is posted by people who aren’t board certified plastic surgeons. “The more a doctor posts (and they pay to be on the site) the higher the answers will be ranked,” she explains.
Glicksman says it’s important to realize some of the information is based on what a person thinks and not much more. “You can’t compare the answers from a doctor, who may be an aesthetic doctor, who doesn’t have the credentials equal to a board certified plastic surgeon – you can’t compare those answers when it is based on their opinions or anecdotes to when it isn’t based on scientific data.”
Some REALity is Okay
An educated patient is a patient who is prepared, according to Glicksman. She’s always happy to see her patients come to the office with some knowledge of the procedure they are considering. “I think any site that gives a patient more information to come in better prepared to the consultation, that’s a great advancement for the patient.” She says there’s a downside to relying too much on an online crutch, that may or may not be accurate.
“What I don’t want is for patients to go to RealSelf the night after surgery, two weeks after surgery, asking some random doctor who may or may be a plastic surgeon about my procedure. They need to email or call me.” Glicksman says RealSelf is still no substitute for the real thing. “I’m the one that you chose, that you paid. I should be answering your post operative concerns.”