Jeffrey Frentzen

In April, the Tribune newspapers published an article in several of its print and online outlets that warned of tough times a-comin’ for plastic surgeons—”A multibillion-dollar industry that is largely the province of the prosperous is suffering in today’s economy, and that could have an appreciable economic impact,” the article claimed.

The piece first ran in the Los Angeles Times and was syndicated throughout the Tribune network of newspapers and Web sites, and beyond.1

The report painted a mostly gloomy picture of the future of aesthetic medicine, though it also mentioned the recent industry statistics indicate business was excellent in 2007 compared with previous years.

Even though business has been getting better, there is good reason for plastic surgeons and cosmetic dermatologists to be concerned about the current economy.

In addition, my own analysis of recent media reports suggests that a lot of physicians are intelligently diversifying product and service offerings with the slumping economy in mind.

The “bad news bears” in the news media, however, won’t be deterred in projecting that gloomy picture.

The subprime loan crisis, the housing slump, and the general decline of the economy have claimed another “covey of victims,” the article states.

It refers to the patient who simply doesn’t have the extra cash to continue regular Botox treatments or schedule that overdue tummy tuck procedure.

WAIT A MINUTE

Last year saw a tremendous boon in aesthetic surgery across the board, with numbers of procedures up in all areas of the country.

At the beginning of 2008, a number of organizations that follow our industry reported a sea change occurring, in which a large segment of new patients were choosing more noninvasive procedures—such as fillers and injectables—over major surgery.

Has the mainstream media misinterpreted the facts and figures?

I sought a reality check that would either validate or refute the Times’ assessment.

During the months of March and April, PSP’s Web site polled readers regarding the impact of an economic slowdown.

The question asked was, “What is the current financial snapshot of your business compared to 1 year ago?”

The poll results revealed that the faltering economy is, indeed, affecting our readership.

How’s business? “Much better,” reported 22% of PSP Web poll respondents. Also, 12% said that business has been “slightly better” in 2008, whereas 16% said business was “even” compared to 1 year ago.

On the other hand, 32% claimed that business in their practice was “slightly worse” overall; 18% said it was “much worse” than 1 year ago.

As a completely unscientific and anecdotal snapshot of our readership’s financial condition, PSP’s poll results came down to 50% of you who are doing alright or better, and 50% who are starting to feel the pinch of a bad economy.

After the Times story ran, several regional media outlets were inspired to take the temperature of local aesthetic practices.

I don’t believe the purported slowdown in aesthetic surgery business is a national trend. It appears that in regions where the overall economy is struggling, plastic surgeons are scheduling fewer elective surgeries.

In other regions, business is either flat or booming.

It is likely to be a roller-coaster ride for some physicians before the economy stabilizes.

How well are practices doing in your neck of the woods? Let me know via e-mail at [email protected]

As an aside, please note that PSP has launched a new Web blog. Titled The Aesthetic Blog, this online resource provides daily news and opinion about our industry.

Check it out at www.psp-interactive.com/blog, and let us know what you think.

Reference

  1. Alonso-Zaldivar R. Cosmetic surgery business sags as purse strings tighten. Los Angeles Times. April 5, 2008:A12.