Thinking outside the Botox: Local doctor takes an innovative approach to practicing plastic surgery

HYDE PARK - First impressions matter. In today's digital culture everyone wants to look their best in person and onsocial media--not to mention video resumes, online dating profiles, and Skype job interviews. 

The aging of the Baby Boomer generation has sparked a surge in demand for products and services that stave off the ravages of time. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the number of cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. has jumped by 197 percent over the past 15 years.

  • Since the ASAPS started collecting data in 1997, the number of cosmetic procedures for women has increased over 252 percent
  • The number of cosmetic procedures performed on men has increased more than 106 percent

The website reports that the medical-beauty industry has blossomed into a $30 billion a year business that includes everything from elective cosmetic surgery and non-surgical alternatives to obesity management and cosmetic dentistry. Today, more than 250 cosmetic procedures are available, with new options introduced every year.

Thinking outside the Botox

Dr. Jon Mendelsohn of Cincinnati is well-positioned to taking advantage of the boom in beauty. With a busy practice in Hyde Park, Mendelsohn has implemented two ideas to keep patients coming back--and referring him to others.

“With the rising popularity of Botox in physician’s offices across the Tri-State, I am continually looking for new ways to differentiate our practice  and help personalize the overall Botox experience for our patients," Mendelsohn said.

With an eye to boosting his Botox business--the leading cosmetic procedure--Mendelsohn has added "No Wait Botox" parking spots in front of his Advanced Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Center. And, he recently launched a line of a humorous greeting cards that are free of charge to anyone who purchases a Botox gift certificate for friends or family members. 

Although some of his own staff members find the cards a bit risqué, Mendelsohn said the cards have been "a huge hit with patients." Tthe themes range from birthdays to divorce to mini-van driving moms (see photo above).

Beauty: There's an app for that

And there's more. Mendelsohn has developed an app that aims to improve communication between cosmetic surgery patients and physicians.  

The Data Direct Cosmetic Interest Questionnaire is designed to help clients get more thorough consultations that are focused on their key areas of concern. It also helps plastic surgeons determine which treatment(s) to discuss during the patient’s first consultation.

“When you’re coming in for an elective treatment, you want the best assessment you can get,” Mendelsohn said. A board certified facial plastic surgeon with 16 years of experience, he is already using the app at his practice, Advanced Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Center in Hyde Park.

Now the app available is to other plastic surgeons who want to provide better service and education to their patients. Mendelsohn developed the app after meeting with colleagues across the country who felt that many of the existing software tools weren’t user-friendly enough to gather the type of data they wanted.

How the app works

The app asks a potential patient to identify the areas of her face and body that concern her most. Are you bothered by crow’s feet? Frown lines? Less-than-perky breasts? The nasolabial folds around your mouth? Saggy jowls?

The Data Direct Cosmetic Interest Questionnaire displays before-and-after pictures of specific areas, but it doesn’t necessarily specify a treatment, Mendelsohn explained.

“We’re just asking what your concerns are.” He likens it to a sushi menu, on which, “you can point to what you like and don’t like.”

After the user ranks each area of concern on a scale of one to five, the doctor can focus advice on those items at the top of the list. 

With this information gathered electronically instead of via a paper questionnaire, the doctor can send follow-up information that is customized to a patient's interests. 

Mark Lucas coordinates patient education and begins the patient consultations at Advanced Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Center. He said, “Before the app, it took me a lot longer to speak with each patient before bringing in Dr. Mendelsohn. Now, on the iPad, the patient can see different pictures of everything we do here. Before they even come into my office, I get a notification on my smartphone or computer that tells me what their main priorities are.”

Each plastic surgeon who uses the app can customize it to reflect the types of the services and the types of information they would find most helpful to in their practice.

Trending: Less invasive procedures

Over time, aggregate data from the app can help plastic surgeons be better prepared to meet the specific interests of clients within their own practice areas.

“We can analyze and track how many people are interested in Botox, how many are interested in Cool Sculpting, and so on,” Mendelsohn said.

Currently, several medical

societies track cosmetic surgery trends on a national and regional basis. The results vary slightly among the various surveys, but they all show a rising demand for less costly and less invasive facial rejuvenation procedures and a shift away from more costly elective cosmetic surgeries.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were 14.6 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures performed in 2012. Of those, 13 million were for minimally invasive procedures, including: 

  • 6.1 million injections of Botox
  • 2 million injections of soft-tissue fillers
  • 1.1 million chemical peels
  • 1.1 laser-hair removal procedures.

The number of cosmetic surgeries declined two percent from 2011 to 2012. Of the 1.6 million cosmetic surgical procedures in 2012, the top five were:

  1. breast augmentation (286,000)
  2. nose reshaping (243,000)
  3. eyelid surgery (204,000)
  4. liposuction (202,000)
  5. facelifts (126,000)

In announcing the report last February, ASPS President Gregory Evans, MD observed, "For the third consecutive year, the overall growth in cosmetic surgery continues to be driven by a significant rise in minimally-invasive procedures, while surgical procedures remain relatively stable.”

Doing your cosmetic surgery homework

Consumers can check out the average prices charged for various cosmetic procedures by joining the community, which is free. In addition to publishing prices, invites community members who have undergone procedures to indicate whether they believe specific procedures are worth the cost.

Currently, the highest rated procedure is a tummy tuck. Of the 5,582 people who reviewed the procedure, 96 percent said it was worth the cost. Of the 1172 members who rated Botox, only 67 percent believed it was worth the $500 cost.

On the website you can see photos of and read reviews of plastic surgery procedures performed by Mendelsohn and other plastic surgeons in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. 

For example, a 43-year-old patient who had the Thermage procedure gave Mendelsohn high marks for "managing her expections," even though she felt the procedure was not ultimately a success. (Thermage uses focused radio‐frequency energy to strengthen collagen in the skin.)

"Unfortunately, the results I experienced were short-lived. From what I've read, the "healing" process for the following month or so may make your face a little swollen - which is great for me, but it didn't last.

It took me months to get the doctor's office to send me my before and after photos so I could do a side-by-side comparison. My guess was because there wasn't improvement, so they drug their feet. However, the doctor was very forthright up front that I may not experience any improvement. In any case, I FINALLY got them today and there is minimal to no improvement.

I'm sorry I didn't have better results to report. On to the next 'latest and greatest.'"

More cosmetic surgery facts and figures

A report issued by the ASAPS indicates that Americans spent almost $11 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2012. 

  • Of this amount, $6.7 billion was spent on surgical procedures
  • $2 billion was spent on injectables
  • 1.8 billion was spent on skin rejuvenation procedures.
  • More than $483 million was spent on other non-surgical procedures such as laser hair removal or laser treatment of leg veins
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