November 29, 2006
Plastic Surgery Demand Growth Pulling In Other Physicians

The demand for beauty enhancement treatments is growing so rapidly that doctors from other specialties are switching fields to complete against dermatologists and plastic surgeons. The New York Times reports that dermatologists and plastic surgeons are complaining that doctors from other specialties lack the training needed to properly provide competent service.

Dermatologists and plastic surgeons refer to their new colleagues as “out of scope” or “noncore” physicians, and they strongly object to the intrusion, insisting that cosmetic medicine requires lengthy training.

But the dispute also has all the elements of a turf war, with specialists reluctant to cede ground in a field in which Americans spend an estimated $12 billion a year.

“Dentists are doing Botox, and urologists are doing hair transplants and vein removal,” said Dr. Ellen Gendler, a dermatologist in Manhattan who is a clinical associate professor at New York University School of Medicine. “Everyone wants to be a plasticologist.”

For their part, some doctors from other fields contend that the latest cosmetic procedures, like facial injections and vein removal, are far less complicated and risky than Caesarean sections or appendectomies and that the fundamentals can be learned in continuing-education classes.

Certainly some of these treatments are not hard to deliver and even a nurse could be trained to do them. But I'd be really hesitant to have plastic surgey on my face by someone who until recently was delivering babies or removing appendixes. Buyer beware. Try to meet people who have used a particular doctor for the type of treatment you want. Look up information about malpractice lawsuits. Be careful.

Family docs are switching to beauty therapies and cosmetic treatments.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, a national group that represents 94,000 family practitioners and medical students, has started offering courses for its members on how to use Botox, facial fillers, lasers and chemical peels.

As I've argued previously, the growing popularity of therapies aimed at rolling back the signs of aging and increasing beauty are great market signals that provide great incentives for the development of more effective treatments. I expect the more entrepreneurial market for optional but popular plastic surgery and dermatological treatments will pioneer many stem cells therapies and gene therapies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 November 29 08:04 PM  Aging Appearances

Ned said at November 30, 2006 5:55 AM:

This is clearly the direction in which this segment of health care is headed. It's driven by market demand (i.e., money). It's not hard to understand why. Suppose a dermatologist or plastic surgeon performs a procedure that he or she has spent years learning to do, such as carving out a skin bump. The doctor might send a bill for $500, but Medicare or some other third party ends up paying only $200, often after a lot of hassle and a long delay. But Botox injections and other discretionary procedures are not covered by insurance and the patient pays full charges, usually up front. Nothing wrong with this, of course - if that's the way people wish to spend their money, so be it. But a lot of doctors are really being hammered by third parties and look to these procedures as some sort of salvation.

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