Dangers of medical blogs

Medical blogs dangerous for plastic surgeons

 

I just came back from the annual meeting of ASAPS (American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery). This is the society of plastic surgeons who primarily specialize in cosmetic plastic surgery as opposed to reconstructive surgery.

It’s good to go to these meetings, not so much for the “latest advances” in medicine, which tend to be agonizingly slow, but for all the other tidbits one learns.

Turns out that what I am doing is now is fraught with danger for me! Although there is a huge demand for cosmetic plastic surgery information on the web and a huge number of sources that provide plastic surgery information, the basis of the concept is under attack.

Plastic surgery information for patients

There are numerous websites and blogs on the web, including mine, that provide medical and surgical information. The problem, of course, is that most people searching for information do not know enough to judge whether what they are reading is worth anything! Think about it: if you knew the answers you would not need to search for them. In addition, in a field as controversial as cosmetic plastic surgery, even experts disagree with one another. There is a lot of what I consider total rubbish written on my colleagues’ websites, for example.

The patient coming in with “I read that on the internet” is a red flag for me. I encourage questions and am ready to answer them, but I just wish patients would not believe everything they read on the internet.  The internet is not a reliable source for information! Equivalents of Nigerian money scams exist in cosmetic plastic surgery also.

 

Cosmetic Plastic surgeon blogs

Plastic surgeons and doctors write medical and surgical blogs to:

  • Provide information to prospective patients
  • Provide information or opinions to patients with questions
  • Promote their web rankings
  • Have a platform for expressing their ideas and espousing their techniques

When a plastic surgeon offers advice to you on the internet and you rely on that information for your medical and surgical care, this is construed as practicing medicine in some states. The very act of replying to your specific question can lead to the cosmetic plastic surgeon being charged with practicing medicine without a license in the particular state in which the patient lives. This can lead to the surgeon losing his or her license in the state where they actually practice! Plastic surgeons can even be sued by patients for “advice” given, even though they have never even seen each other.

Sadly, both of these travesties have already occurred.

From now on, I have to give very general answers to questions and preface everything by saying “in my opinion” and ending everything with “I recommend you see your plastic surgeon.”

 

Cosmetic plastic surgeons can communicate with their own patients via the internet, messaging systems, email, twitter, etc. as long as patients have given consent for such electronic communications (I have included such in my basic information sheet, which patients sign at their first consultation). Without that permission, if you text me with an urgent question, I can’t text you back! However, you can still call me on the phone!

Morad Tavallali, M.D., FACS