Cheap Surgery and Surgical Tourism

It’s safe to say that I never go an entire week without seeing some patient who is unhappy with previous plastic surgery. Certainly, even in the best of hands, patients can have imperfect outcomes. That’s just part of surgery, and plastic surgery is no different. I guarantee to every patient that their surgery will not be perfect.  There’s no such thing as a perfect surgery- although it is something to strive for.

On the other hand, it’s very frustrating for me (and obviously for the patient) when the patient doesn’t feel like she has achieved the result that was advertised and then was dismissed by the surgeon.  Often, this is because the patient went for some kind of “too good too good to be true” offer. Such offers come down to one of two things: either cheap plastic surgery or “surgical tourism” which is generally another version of cheap plastic surgery.

“Surgical tourism” is generally another version of cheap plastic surgery!

Everybody wants a good deal, but you get what you pay!

Everybody wants a good deal, but the old ad adage that you get what you pay for has been around forever for a good reason. It costs a certain amount to operate a plastic surgery practice just like any other business.  The better the quality of the materials, facility, or employees in a business, the more expensive that business’s product is going to have to be to the end consumer, right?

It’s just impossible to have the best facilities the best people and the best materials coordinated in the best environment with the most caring and unlimited access to the surgeon and team and unlimited follow-up… and do it cheaper than anyone else.  In my practice, we spend a lot on making sure that we have the best nurses, the best surgical techs, the best medical assistants, and the best receptionists that we can hire.

I’m not one to cut corners, and so I want a facility and a staff that I can be proud of – so that’s exactly what we have.  But there’s a cost associated to that.   So, when someone comes to the office for my opinion on their surgery done elsewhere (although they had seen me for a consult and went to someone else because it was half the price) and now they come back to me upset about a sloppy job that was done by a surgeon who doesn’t seem to care very much about the patients complaints, it’s no surprise!

Sometimes we need to be frank: THE most expensive surgery is TWO surgeries for the same problem.

Is Surgical Tourism Dangerous?

This applies to surgical tourism- with a certain twist that makes the situation even worse!  In case you don’t already know about it, you would be amazed at the ridiculously low prices that are charged for some procedures in South Florida, or Central and South America.

There is even significant surgical tourism to the Far East.   Now I’m certainly not saying that there can’t be great surgeons in other countries.  I also understand that the costs for surgeons overseas to perform surgeries might be much less because supplies and staff and facilities may be far less expensive in those locations.  But what happens after the surgery?

I’ll tell you what happens after the surgery-  The patients are required to stay near the surgical facility for maybe 2 days, maybe 3 days, or maybe an entire week but then they fly back here.  They are told to find a local surgeon to remove their sutures or to remove their drains.  Even worse, they come back here and have a problem and expect someone local to take care of it.

In both the local cheapest surgery or the cheap surgical tourism settings, we as ethical doctors are really obligated to help patients and do.  But it’s pretty easy to see how that’s going to be an uncomfortable patient doctor relationship starting with that slap in the face to the local surgeon.

And if a revision or actual emergency surgery needs to be done, now it’s going to get really expensive.  So now we’re back at the old story of how you get what you pay for.  I do like having a reputation as being the go-to guy for revising other surgeries, but it would be better for patients to just avoid seeing me for that reason.

We set ourselves apart by providing the best care with the best staff.

There really are only two ways to distinguish yourself in plastic surgery just like in any other business.  You can either compete with the bazillion people trying to be the cheapest, or you can decide that you will set yourself apart by providing the best care with the best staff and the best facilities and the best materials and the best pre-operative care and the best post-operative care and the best long-term follow-up and the dedication to make sure that each patient ends up happy.

My dad used to tell me, “whatever you decide to do- and it doesn’t matter if you want to be a garbage collector- just be the best garbage collector you can be.”  I’m a neurotic perfectionist so I’m happy with our choice of how we approach our specialty at Weniger Plastic Surgery.  I couldn’t live the other way.  We definitely lose people who find someone much cheaper- either near us or far away.  So, we might not win all the time in the contest of how many surgeries we do.

That’s OK, because what makes us feel good at the end of the day is how many patients we made happy.