Mid-June in Las Vegas can get as hot as one can imagine the desert can get, and “so hot” is an appropriate metaphor to describe the aesthetic community’s best meeting of the year, in my opinion: The Facial Cosmetic Surgery Symposium. Hundreds of high-caliber physicians converge from all points of the globe, and for several days meet in the air-conditioned comfort of the Bellagio hotel on the Strip and eagerly learn from one another.
By eagerly, I mean the atmosphere at this meeting is always open and very positive, and does not include “turf war” baggage that can characterize many of the Society-sponsored meetings. Physicians representing a variety of specialties meet on neutral ground to discuss with and learn from one another.
The event was a practically nonstop parade of well-orchestrated educational seminars and presentations on all things aesthetic. It is no coincidence that PSP: Plastic Surgery Practice is the media partner for this meeting. PSP ’s staff chose this meeting over all the others for its exceptional program, and in disclosing this I must add that no money changes hands in PSP ’s support of the meeting.
Of the many topics brought up in public debate and private conversations, a few important themes bubbled up to the surface:
INVASIVE VERSUS NONINVASIVE PROCEDURES
Many patients in aesthetic practices around the world have asked for more noninvasive treatments in response to the need for cosmetic procedures that cost less, don’t involve a knife, and hold the promise of less downtime. The proliferation of many energy-based medical devices have sought to help physicians with performing noninvasive treatments, such as body contouring, cellulite reduction, facial recontouring, fat removal, etc.
Yet, throughout my conversations with many physicians, a single jarring observation emerged: By and large, practitioners say most of these devices do not work as advertised, or, there have not been enough scientific or clinical studies to prove that they work with any kind of regularity. Therefore, many of them claim to be going back to encouraging patients to accept plain old surgical solutions when it comes to cosmetic rejuvenation. I suppose this kind of backlash against such a large influx of medical devices is to be expected when the market is flooded with too many systems that do less than is claimed and that cost practitioners too much money to buy and maintain.
I imagine that the aesthetic industry will forever tip its hat to Botox, the neurotoxin that essentially catapulted the field into a multibillion-dollar enterprise, perhaps single-handedly. On the other hand, at this meeting an awful lot of talk among physicians was about the value and efficacy of the new Botox competitor, Dysport. In its 2 years of FDA-approved use in the United States, Dysport has captured nearly one-fifth of the market once held exclusively by Botox and is now considered a worthy alternative for certain treatments. And the field is gearing up for the release of additional new neurotoxin products in the near future.
Although the impressively large contingent of practice-management and marketing professionals presenting at this meeting seemed quite confident about what social media is and how it should be used, every physician I spoke with had slightly (or at times wildly) differing views on what it means to them and their practices. For some, it is a useful marketing platform. For others, it is to be avoided.
Clearly, social media cannot be ignored. Millions of potential customers are using Facebook, Twitter, Web sites such as RealSelf, and other forms of online social interaction. Its proper use of social media by physicians, however, is one point on which few physician seem to agree.
EXHIBIT HALL POLICING?
I spent the better part of one morning walking past exhibits, speaking with vendor reps, and perusing product literature. One vendor stopped me at one point and gestured around the room, saying, “If the FDA sent its spies into this hall, a quarter of the vendors would be on the street for regulatory violations in a minute,” he said, amazingly, with a smile.
I’ve heard this kind of talk at other meetings, as well. Perhaps vendor participants should be held accountable, in advance, for the claims made in their product literature and for what comes out of the mouths of sales reps who are hawking their wares at these types of events?