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Cover Focus | Mar 2017

Residents’ POV: What is the New Outlook for Millennial Plastic Surgery?

The aesthetics business appears to be evolving with the newest wave of plastic surgeons primed to take the industry by storm.

In recent years, much has been made of the somewhat inscrutable nature of the so-called “millennial” generation. It is not always easy to predict what the next generation of plastic surgeons will give to—or want from—the medical aesthetics industry; however, it is important to try to understand their influence. After all, their money is going to be driving the plastic surgery business into the future, whether the older generation likes it or not. Here is a look at the way the business appears to be evolving with the newest wave of plastic surgeons primed to take the industry by storm.

Non-surgical Strikes

As residents become full-fledged surgeons, there will be a great deal of competition in the non-surgical realm. Many of today’s plastic surgeons administer non-surgical cosmetic services, such as Botox and laser treatments, as part of their practices. And now more than ever before, medical aesthetics patients seem to want to try non-surgical treatments instead of surgical options, at least initially. It’s less expensive, there’s not as much downtime, and results are improving, thanks to advances in technology.

In the lucrative medical aesthetics industry, offering these services definitely helps a plastic surgeon’s bottom line. New and innovative technology allows users to offer popular services, such as body sculpting, vaginal rejuvenation, microneedling, and threading that give them the opportunity to draw new patients to their practices. However, it also puts them in competition with numerous others who provide the same services, such as non-core physicians who are lured by the easy money a well-run aesthetics practice can provide. It’s difficult to stand out in this crowded field, but it seems that more and more, plastic surgeons finding a way to do it.

A New Age of Marketing

Plastic surgeons do have one intrinsic advantage over their competitors in this realm: They are the most highly trained aesthetics professionals providing these services. Therefore, the key to success may lie in bringing this to the attention of potential customers. The use of social media marketing can allow plastic surgeons to get themselves out into the world to be seen on a much larger scale than ever before in the history of the aesthetics industry. Some young physicians and plastic surgeons are even becoming celebrities, because they are able to capture a massive audience using Twitter or Facebook. In many instances, the social media audience thinks that the person they’re following is the greatest surgeon in the world, even if he or she has only been out of medical school for three years. Young surgeons who are familiar with social media are much better equipped to take advantage of this than their competition.

However, there are several ethical challenges that go along with using social media as a marketing tool. The old guard, including the medical boards and the people who run the societies that govern surgeons, tend to be quite apprehensive about these new marketing techniques. Many of them feel that it blurs the line between celebrity and health care, and a newly emboldened group of regulators are beginning to take matters into their own hands.

Regulators Mount Up

As plastic surgeons become more famous and more of the population gravitates toward medical aesthetic procedures, there will be greater scrutiny on surgeons to make sure that they are maintaining compliance, ethics, and legality. From the time of the financial collapse of the late 2000s until relatively recently, regulation has been somewhat lax in terms of enforcement.

However, that is beginning to change. Observers are seeing more and more investigations into aesthetics practices. For example, certain states, including California, are beginning to crack down on plastic surgeons who serve as medical directors for an excessive number of medical aesthetics practices. Even though such a situation might seem to be legal by the letter of the law, to regulators it appears as if the plastic surgeons in question are just slapping their names on these practices to make a quick buck and/or increase their celebrity status. They can’t possibly be overseeing all these practices in a conscientious manner, so regulators are beginning to take action against them.

Even though celebrity status appears to be easier to obtain than ever, and even though engaging with young people via social media is a perhaps the best way to grab their attention, plastic surgeons must know and follow the rules and regulations of the states in which they operate. If they haven’t already, they should consult an experienced health care attorney to make sure that their practices don’t draw scrutiny from regulators. (Author’s note: The American Med Spa Association (AmSpa) works with a national law firm that focuses on medical aesthetic legalities and, as a member, along with a number of other great benefits, you receive a discount off of your initial consultation. To learn more, log on to www.americanmedspa.org.)

Sunny Days Ahead?

It might seem strange to consider that the future for the new generation of plastic surgeons may involve less actual surgery and more opportunity for greater profit and acclaim; however, this is provided they don’t incur the wrath of regulators. If they operate mindfully and with discipline, they very well could know greater success than any previous generation. Young surgeons are in a better position to court young patients than anyone else, and it is up to them to make sure that they are doing it within the boundaries of the law.

Alex R. Thiersch, JD, is a Chicago health care attorney who represents medical spas, plastic surgeons, and aesthetic medical professionals. He is the founder and director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa), which was created for the express purpose of providing comprehensive, relevant and timely legal and business resources for medical spas and medical aesthetic physicians throughout the United States. Thiersch is also a partner at ByrdAdatto Law Firm. For more information about becoming a member or to learn about AmSpa’s upcoming events, log on to www.americanmedspa.org. Alex can be contacted at alex@americanmedspa.org.

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