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Body Contouring: The Importance of Online Patient Reviews

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Body ContouringPlastic surgery centers offering body contouring in NYC post before and after images of their patients on their websites so that people can see the transformation that a procedure can create. However, these photos reveal nothing about the person’s actual experience with plastic surgery. That’s why most people considering an aesthetic procedure turn to social media and online forums to read real patient stories. ModernMedicine Network recently reported on a new study published in Dermatologic Surgery which suggests that online patient reviews on social media sites can help dermatologists showcase and educate patients about minimally-invasive fat reduction procedures.

According to the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, body contouring procedures are among the top four treatments patients request. Men and women can choose from a variety of minimally-invasive and noninvasive fat reduction procedures to improve their appearance. Patients rate their cosmetic surgical experiences on platforms such as RealSelf.com, which is one of the most trusted sources for people considering an elective cosmetic treatment. The authors of the study say that aesthetic providers should use this information “to guide decision-making around minimally-invasive technique selection and price setting within their own practices”.

The goal of the study was to identify the most popular and widely accepted body contouring procedures among patients, especially newer ones that were not so frequently requested. The authors reviewed 11,871 patient reviews on fat-reduction procedures posted on Realself in 2017. The researchers categorized patient satisfaction ratings under three heads: “Worth it” (positive), “Not worth it” (negative), and “Not sure” (neutral).

To ensure more accurate comparisons, the team classified reviews of 13 unique minimally-invasive procedures into five body contouring modality categories:

  • Laser
  • Radiofrequency
  • Ultrasound
  • Cryolipolysis
  • Injectables

The reviews on these popular body contouring modalities were also compared to patient responses on traditional liposuction or invasive body contouring. The team also assessed and compared patient reviews of tumescent liposuction, a fat reduction technique, can address larger volume patient cases than minimally-invasive procedures. This procedure can be performed in one session, and unlike traditional liposuction, does not require the operating room and anesthesia. Researchers reviewed 7,170 patient reviews that included all five minimally-invasive procedure categories. The results of the study are as follows:

  • The overall satisfaction rating was 58%
  • Despite being more expensive and more invasive, liposuction, which had 4,645 patient reviews, had a higher satisfaction rating of 66 percent. Tumescent liposuction got a 63-percent satisfaction rating.
  • Despite having a lower umbrella positive rating than more traditional, extensive techniques, the minimally-invasive procedures still had a median global rating of 81 percent satisfaction.
  • Laser procedures received 3,565 reviews and a 61-percent satisfaction score. Laser liposuction is a minimally invasive fat reduction procedure that can be performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia.
  • Cryoplipolysis technique CoolSculpting got a 55-percent satisfaction score.
  • 319 patients reviewed injectable treatments which got a 49-percent satisfaction score. Kybella (injectable) got a satisfaction score of 49 percent, while 314 patients reviewed radio frequency techniques, giving it a satisfaction score of 63 percent.
  • 275 patients reviewed ultrasound liposuction which received a satisfaction score of 73 percent.

The study authors suggest that aesthetic providers can use patient reviews in many ways:

  • For clinical cost setting – discussing costs with patients is important because minimally-invasive procedures are typically paid for out-of-pocket. Clinicians should also inform patients that costs may vary based on the number of treatments they will need to achieve the desired results.
  • To better understand how patients view the pros and cons of minimally-invasive procedures from a real-world perspective – by telling patients about how other individuals responded to these body contouring techniques, providers can help patients make more informed decisions.
  • Obtain the tools they need to correct any misperceptions or misinformation patients gather from searching about fat reduction techniques online.

Patient reviews provide facts about one person’s experience, but not all online resources provide accurate evaluations of patient satisfaction or of a procedure’s efficacy and safety. For example, in a recent study, published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, researchers from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School found the majority of YouTube videos on facial plastic surgery procedures were misleading marketing campaigns posted by non-qualified medical professionals. Out of 240 videos with a total of 160 million views, only 72 videos featured board-certified physicians to assess the procedures accurately and provide patients with proper information.

To sum up in the words of the author of Dermatologic Surgery study, “Aesthetic providers should familiarize themselves with online reviews, such as those on RealSelf.com, so they will be better prepared to help patients make the right decisions that fall best in line with the patient’s medical history. This is because social media is one of the easiest ways for people to get reviews of other people’s experiences and clinicians should want to see what information is out there and what their patients are gleaning from it.”

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