Reviews feel like everything these days. We use them to guide just about all of our decisions on products, servies, experiences, and food. As a consumer, I know that I rely on them heavily in my decision making, but as a Plastic Surgeon I know how unreliable and straight up unfounded they can be. So how much stock should we put into reviews for Plastic Surgery? It can seem impossible as a patient to sift through the sheer depth of information out there on the internet and social media. So how should a patient triage online information to make a valid, informed decision about their Plastic Surgeon? In a previous blog post I offered my tips on what to consider when choosing a Plastic Surgeon, but this one focuses specifically on what to make of reviews.
Plastic Surgery Outcomes Are Subjective:
Unlike a piece of furniture that showed up at your doorstep broken, outcomes in Plastic Surgery vary depending on who you ask. And let me tell you, people can have widely differing impressions of post-surgical results. Last year I had a long-standing patient come see me after we reopened from Covid. She was passionately unhappy with how “uneven” her nipples were. I expressed to her that I wasn’t totally seeing what she was seeing so I snapped a picture, uploaded it into our photo system and used the ruler feature to draw a straight line. Sure enough, the mathematically straight/horizontal line went through both nipples. When I showed this to her, however, she began yelling at me and ended up storming out of my office whilst telling me what a horrible surgeon I was. I chalked the severity of her response up to “Covid” but you can see how two people looking at the exact same thing can have widely differing impressions of something even seemingly objective. Sometimes, no matter what the results are or how well you counsel a patient preoperatively about possible outcomes and realistic expectations, a patient is just determined to be unhappy with their results.
Everyone Has Bad Reviews:
Before I sat down to write this, I just Googled a couple of my favorite restaurants. Now, I live in Seattle, and one thing I can say after living all over the country before moving here is that this city has amazing food across the board. The places I picked to Google are, in my opinion, exceptionally great. Yet sure enough, listed under each restaurant’s Google reviews are a handful of one-star reviews. Fact: No business or product is going to make everyone happy. In fact, when I have a great experience or meal, or I find a great product, my first instinct is not to write a raving review but rather tell all my friends about it or post it to social media. It’s not until I remember how much I appreciate good reviews myself that I secondarily will think to also leave a good online review. Conversely, however, I can remember those times I have had less than optimal experiences and you better bet my first instinct was to write up my experience in the form of a one-star review. I’m not sure if this is just instinctual or merely the online culture we have created, but I think it is an important point to keep in mind. People seem to like sharing their bad experiences yet often have to be pushed into sharing their good (in the form of reviews that is). A lesser known fact is that some surgeons actually threaten legal action against those who write poor reviews, so be wary of surgeons who have zero less-than-stellar reviews. Bottom line: You want a healthy ratio of many good reviews with some bad ones sprinkled in.
Anyone Can Write A Review:
The anonymity of the internet, paired with patient privacy laws, make it incredibly easy for just about anyone to write a review about you with little to no recourse or rebuttal. I’ve had numerous colleagues complain about nasty reviews written about them from people who weren’t even technically their patients. Had a bad experience with the person answering the phone? Took too long to get in to be seen for consultation? These are all very accepted reasons for going online and writing a negative review not just about a particular practice but also about that particular surgeon, even if you never even set foot in the office or met with the surgeon you are reviewing. Remember, as the provider you are the brand so to speak, so all those reviews get listed under you specifically and are read by potential patients as such.
If you Google my name or look at my reviews, you will inevitably find a copy-and-paste negative review written about my previous employer about an incident that apparently took place in the early 1990’s. Well, I was like 10 years old during that time and clearly wasn’t practicing medicine then; however, you really have to read the review in order to pick up on that detail. Or the fact that the review isn’t even about me at all. Yet, it still exists and, despite my best efforts, all the “reputable” review sources refuse to take it down.
The Bottom Line:
No one can discredit the value of reviews both good and bad. In the world of Plastic Surgery, the important thing is to keep in mind they are only part of the picture. A handful of good reviews paired with before and after photos that match your goals and aesthetics, word of mouth reputation, and a good vibe on consultation not just of the surgeon but also the staff are the best tools you can use at your disposal.
Dr. Megan Dreveskracht is a Seattle-based Female Plastic Surgeon who specializes in Aesthetic Surgeries of the Breast, Body & Face. To schedule your consultation, call 206.860.5582 or fill out a contact form here.