PLASTIC SURGERY PRICE SHOPPING: WHAT ARE YOU REALLY SAVING?
Let’s face it, Plastic Surgery is expensive. No matter how you swing it, the overall cost of surgery will involve some sort of facility fee, anesthesia fee and then the surgeon’s fee. While in general, most practices have prices around what the local average is (we are always benchmarking our prices to make sure we are competitive), there are inevitably outliers in both directions. In an industry where cash is king and the demand is high, it’s no surprise that you can find a $40,000 facelift in Manhattan. People charge that because they can, plain and simple. But what should you make of the prices on the lower end, and what are you really saving when you go with the lowest common denominator?
Too good to be true?
We’ve heard about a billion times throughout our lives that you get what you pay for. In most scenarios, I believe it rings pretty darn true. After all, you can’t buy a Kia and expect a Ferrari. When you’re looking around at prices for Plastic Surgery and you see something that feels too good to be true, you really need to ask yourself why they are offering such a good deal. It could be for a totally legitimate reason. One example is when I first started out in practice in Seattle. I was new to practice, had zero name recognition, and was practicing in a saturated and competitive market. In order to get patients in the door and build up my reputation, we offered “introductory” discounts on surgeries such as Breast Augmentations. I was more than qualified, patients had great experiences and outcomes, but we just needed that extra little nudge to draw in people to get me started. Another good example of discounted rates that aren’t red flags is in the world of injectables. Most of the major injectable companies have a tiered system with their providers whereas the more of their product you use and purchase, the cheaper you get product from the company. Oftentimes, a portion of this discounted rate gets passed along as savings to the customers who, in turn, can get filler and injectables at lower prices than comparable clinics.
More often than not, however, lower pricing truly is a reflection of the quality of the outcome you should expect to receive. Whether that be a reflection of your surgical outcome (qualifications and expertise of your are team), your overall experience (not just the day of surgery but also the entirety of postoperative care), or the safety of the facility you have surgery in, the price of a discount has to come from one part of the equation. Some common ways that practices cut costs in order to offer lower prices: hiring Cosmetic surgeons instead of Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, limiting access to your surgeon to the day of your procedure and a single post-operative visit afterwards (other visits are seen by mid-level providers, sometimes even for the consults!), or providing anesthesia without a formal anesthesia provider present (one less person to pay, right?). As you can imagine, all of the above situations can be problematic from a safety and a patient care standpoint. To avoid getting duped, make sure to do your homework and research, and ask questions not only about your procedure but also about your care team and care plan before and after surgery.
Price Shopping Discourages Loyalty
One of the awesome things about Plastic Surgery is that you get to grow with your patients. Maybe your patient starts with a Breast Augmentation in her 20’s, then after having kids will come to see you for her Tummy Tuck, and eventually for her Facelift. This longevity is based in loyalty, trust and respect--a relationship that doesn’t exist when patients only care about the bottom dollar. True price-shopping patients often haggle pricing and want something for nothing. As a surgeon, I want patients who value my time and my expertise, and seek me out for my skill, bedside manner and emphasis on patient education. When both the surgeon and the patient respect and appreciate each other, it makes for a better overall relationship and, in my opinion, better overall outcomes.
Medical Tourism Will Cost You in the Long Run
‘Medical Tourism’ is defined as traveling to a different country to seek Medical treatment. For Plastic Surgery, places that come quickly to mind are Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and a recent rise of patients flooding to south Florida for surgical procedures. What do all these places have in common? Decreased regulations aimed at keeping patients safe and practitioners accountable. Any Plastic Surgeon will tell you that they have taken care of patients with either botched surgeries or unmanaged complications that somehow end up in our office or the ER. Usually, their surgeon can’t be reached even for the simplest of guidance or assistance. When you have unqualified people performing surgical procedures in a sub-standard setting with no follow up, you are bound to run into some big trouble. Guess who is going to pay for that seroma drainage from your tummy tuck when your drains were left in place for 4 weeks too long? Or that infected breast implant that needs to be removed? Well, you are. Most surgeons would manage most of their own complications at some sort of discount if not free of charge for their own patient. But when your surgeon is in another country and their office seems to not be picking up their phone, you are stuck with 100% of the cost. And that’s just managing the complications, let alone the cost of the revision procedure you will likely want after everything is healed up.
While it’s easy to think of Plastic Surgery in the broader terms of consumable goods, it’s imperative to remember that it is not. It is surgery. And really, really scary and bad things can happen if you, your Surgeon, or your care team aren’t meticulous, dedicated and experienced. Bottom line: Just like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.