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Minimally-Invasive Means Maximum Value for Patients and Physicians Alike

May 8, 2009 |

As evidenced in the recent wave of ‘2008 statistics’ published by the various professional associations of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and cosmetic medicine physicians, last year appears to have been a “boom” for minimally-invasive procedures. Edging-out their surgical counterparts, minimally-invasive offerings demonstrated their ability to carry practices into profitability in 2008. Even in the face of fourth quarter woes, minimally-invasive procedures performed! Clearly, Medical Aesthetic Physician Training Programs need to support this demand.

So this overwhelming trend in “downsizing” in the aesthetic medical arena begs the question, why? As Dr. John Di Saia, noted plastic-surgeon in Orange County, California, shares, “whereas this time a year or two ago I might have had a breast implant case, today, I have an ear lobe repair.”

Dr. Paul Angelchik, a respected plastic surgeon with a thriving practice in Glendale, Arizona, offers his insight on why minimally-invasive treatments are capturing more and more of the cosmetic medicine market. “There are a couple of major factors contributing to these trends. First is the negative psychology of the marketplace. This phenomenon owes a lot to genuine economic issues, but also to repetitive bad news in the major media outlets, and doom-saying from politicians. People are fatigued with this daily onslaught, and are starting to want to just live their lives normally again. So one way to satisfy one’s desire to look one’s best while still being cognizant of the economy, is to have procedures done which are less expensive, convenient to schedule, and have minimal to no downtime.” Dr. Angelchik further comments, “many people are afraid of losing their jobs, so they don’t want to be absent for a couple of weeks after a facelift for example. For others, finding themselves now looking for employment, they want to look their best when interviewing for a new position. Patients are aware that an aging appearance makes them less competitive in finding a new job, which isn’t fair of course, but it is a reality.”

Jeff Russell, Executive Director of the International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine (IAPAM) suggests that the success of minimally-invasive procedures, especially during the current economic downturn, is the “lipstick effect” in aesthetic medicine, “where medspa patients are opting for affordable luxuries as a substitute for more expensive items.”

Dr. Angelchik further builds upon Mr. Russell’s insight. “Another major contributing factor is simply that there is now a wider variety of less invasive and non-invasive procedures which work well. People get impressive results today with medical grade skin care, Botox Cosmetic, fillers, Sculptra, light-based technology, and other new techniques that just weren’t available 10 years ago. So efficacy is definitely better, and continues to improve, and that is also driving patients to these less aggressive, less risky alternatives to surgery.”

Therefore, given the economic realities facing both patients and practitioners, three strategies emerge that can both minimize the impact of the economic downturn on existing aesthetic medicine practices, or offer an an additional profit centre to general practices:

  1. Refine treatment recommendations to patients. For example, market “eyejuvenation” (with Botox®, Latisse® and dermal fillers) vs. a surgical eyelift;
  2. Bundle or package procedures to improve a patient’s perception of “value for money;” and
  3. Add minimally-invasive procedures to an existing practice, enhancing the value offering to one’s existing patient base, and adding a new revenue stream to one’s established healthcare business.

Consistent with these strategies, physicians like Dr. Richard Baxter, a leading board-certified plastic surgeon from Washington State, have witnessed that patients “are also shifting into ‘maintenance mode’ by opting for more affordable procedures with minimal or no downtime until the economy improves and they can justify their facelift.” To address this recent shift in market demand, “plastic surgeons have adapted by expanding their repertoires to include more and more minimally invasive technologies and beauty services.” Doctors are recommending laser resurfacing where once they suggested surgery.

Equally, Dr. Russell Kridel, a Houston based plastic surgeon, innovatively addresses the concerns of recession conscious clients. While the government hammers out the details for an economic stimulus package, Dr. Kridel offers his patients a beauty stimulus package. “Why not spend your money on something you can count on? suggests Dr. Kridel. “Ask your financial advisor if looking good keeps you competitive,” Non invasive soft tissue fillers can stave off the need for more expensive surgery. There is no down time to keep you away from your job or social life. A good skin care program can work over months to reduce fine lines and can be an aging preventative. Non invasive procedures can make plastic surgery procedures last longer. “We are offering Beauty Stimulus Packages to help individuals maintain their vitality and improve their appearances that are economically sensitive,” said Russell Kridel MD. “We recognize that it is tough for people out there, so we want to give them more optimism when they look in the mirror. Obama can try to stimulate the economy, but we can stimulate the patient’s beauty,” shares Dr. Kridel.

Other physicians, like Dr. Jon E. Mendelsohn, medical director of Advanced Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center in Cincinnati reflects that ,“even though our patients may not be feeling good about the current state of the economy, they still care very much about how they look. Although they are undoubtedly having to make other financial sacrifices or eschew luxury purchases, the patients at our practice are continuing to keep up with their Botox injections, fillers and other skin treatments such as Fraxel.” Dr. Mendelsohn went on to say that, “whether the economy is up or down, looking good and feeling good about yourself is here to stay. Feeling good about your appearance will undoubtedly make you feel a bit better about the economy as well!”

As Dr. Mendelson has seen, patients are indeed driving this shift. Dr. James Vogel, a sought-after Maryland plastic surgeon shared an anecdote that illustrates how minimally-invasive treatments are capturing the imagination of patients as well as the lion’s share of the market.  “One of my patients, a man in his mid 50’s came to me because he wanted to be more competitive with his colleagues in his industry and sought my expertise to obtain a more youthful appearance.” Dr. Vogel shared that his patient successfully “underwent a minimally invasive face lift with Botox and some hair transplants to restore his appearance.  It is very important to me that my patients maintain their natural look but look rejuvenated and healthy, and at my Maryland practice minimally invasive procedures allow my patients to achieve their desired youthful look with procedures that provide immediate results and require little-to-no downtime.”

On a final note, any successful treatment offering has to be built upon expert training.  Physician-lead educational programs, such as the IAPAM’s Aesthetic Medicine Symposium series in Scottsdale, Arizona, are designed to help physicians enter the minimally-invasive marketplace both competent and confident. Respected plastic surgeon and IAPAM Faculty member, Dr. Marc Scheiner, applauds programs like the IAPAM’s Symposiums, “because they give physicians the confidence necessary to begin immediately offering a procedure upon successful completion of each course. Dr. Jennifer Linder, board-certified dermatologist, and fellow member of the IAPAM faculty also adds, “effective training programs should also offer preparation to effectively handle adverse events both from a medical standpoint as well as helping the patient to understand the situation. And of course, marketing assistance is also very valuable and good training should discuss how to market your services.”  Training, of the calibre of the IAPAM’s, is essential to any value-added service offering.

In the final analysis, at a practice’s year-end, physicians will have the most success with minimally-invasive procedures if they address their current and potential patients’ concerns with the economy. Price is pivotal, and although patients may not ‘forgo’ aesthetic treatments, they want to believe they are choosing offerings that provide excellent value for money. This way, patients feel they are managing their budgets responsibly. Physicians can address these needs by marketing their treatments based on “comparable results at affordable prices;” showing that they empathize with the nation’s concerns in this economic slump, and marketing their treatments based on quality for less. Afterall, patients will continue to pursue aesthetic medicine offerings “because they work and patients feel they are worth it,” recession or not, but in this economy, minimally-invasive could mean maximum profit.

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Comments (1)

  1. Don’t buy a one trick pony!
    Our practice ( is in a small town 90 west of the Twin Cities (that’s Minneapolis and St Paul, MN). You need to understand, for 80 of those miles you will see nothing but farmland.
    Despite that we routinely get people from the Twin Cities at our clinic. You can find lots of fractional systems in the cities, why are they coming to our clinic? We don’t have a one trick pony. We have a Fotona Er:YAG laser. With our laser we can do everything from laser microdermabration to papillary dermis peels with or without fractionation. We can also do Smooth mode, a more precise plasma like treatment, also with our without fractionation… and everything in between.

    So rather than fitting the patient to the treatment you have, we fit the treatment to the needs of the patient.

    When a new patient comes to our office they get a complete consult. They will understand the option and the various levels of outcome. If they need a no down time treatment, we can arrange it. If they want the “10 years younger in 10 day” we can do that also. Most importantly we fit the treatment to the patient not the other way around!

    “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
Abraham Maslow
    Tom Sult, MD

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