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Plastic Surgeons Face a Challenge from Uncertified Physicians

In an attempt to augment their incomes, some doctors are incorporating profitable new cosmetic procedures into their practice, often in areas outside of their original specialty. From family practice doctors offering Botox to oral surgeons performing plastic surgery, examples of doctors branching out and cashing in are popping up across the nation.

The benefits of this arrangement to the doctor are obvious: the ability to attract a new type of patient and the addition of services where payments consist primarily of out of pocket payments directly from patients, not insurance companies. Although it is difficult to find reliable data on the impact of this new trend on patient outcomes, so far the results have been mixed at best.

Although 80% of the physicians in the U.S. choose to pursue specialized training leading to official certification in a specialty area approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties (a process which requires a 3 year residency as well as numerous exams), in the United States, physicians are not required to limit their practice to their area of specialty, and there are currently only three states that even require doctors to be specific about which specialty boards they have been certified with.

Patient confusion about who is certified to do what is further increased by the proliferation of associations with official sounding names, like the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, an organization comprised primarily of physicians practicing plastic surgery without official board certification, and a name that is nearly impossible for the average patient to distinguish from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the group for board certified surgeons.

Because there are currently no laws or regulatory bodies dealing with this relatively new phenomenon, few statistics are available on the patient outcomes of physicians operating outside their area of specialty. However physicians who are traditionally trained in plastic surgery have seen an increase in patients looking to have botched procedures corrected, and sadly, there have even been cases of patients being permanently disfigured as a result.

Patients have reason to be concerned about the level of training being offered when many physicians begin performing cosmetic procedures after only attending a weekend long seminar on popular procedures like liposuction, Botox, and breast enhancement, usually led by a physician without board certification in plastic surgery.

Another area of concern is the lack of adequate facilities to handle an emergency if a procedure takes a turn for the worst. Doctors who primarily work in a non-surgical environment, some as casual as a spa or tanning salon, often don’t have the medical resources to quickly handle a medical crisis, negatively impacting patient outcomes.

Now more than ever, it is crucial for patients seeking plastic surgery to verify credentials and seek second opinions to avoid becoming unwitting victims of inadequately trained doctors performing cosmetic surgery. Contact us to receive expert care from board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Gary Breslow.

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