Before we book a dinner reservation or select a hotel, many of us are inclined to log in to Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google to read reviews. We can see photos and read first hand experiences before confirming our plans. Many people have this same inclination when selecting a plastic surgeon. Surely these online reviews can be trusted and provide an accurate representation of the service (in this case surgery), we are likely to receive? However, a recent study from Northwestern University concluded online reviews can be misleading.
First, most online reviews are extremely polarizing. Many of us have experienced this ourselves simply when selecting the best steakhouse for dinner – people either had the best dinner of their lives or it was horrible! It seems it is human nature to only post a review for an experience at the extreme ends of the spectrum.
Second, the study concluded many of the negative online reviews of plastic surgeons were posted by people who never had a surgical procedure with that office. These fake reviews can be difficult to recognize and lead to confusion.
Third, the study noted it is plausible a surgeon has been quietly practicing for many years and does not devote significant time to increasing his/her online presence. This surgeon may have only one review, while another, potentially less skilled, surgeon may focus solely on building up his online review presence.
So where does this leave a patient? Recommendations from friends and family who had procedures with the surgeon are key. Firsthand experience from an actual patient (not an online “patient”) is invaluable. If this resource isn’t available, ask to review the before and after photos of procedures performed by the surgeon. Ensure these photos are from treatments performed by the physician and not stock photos provided by a company. Also verify the physician is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Last, trust your gut. After your consultation, if you have strong feelings, either positive or negative, follow your instincts. It is important to feel comfortable with the office and surgeon you are selecting.
Online reviews can certainly be one part of the equation in choosing a plastic surgeon, but they shouldn’t be trusted as a holy grail. Selecting a plastic surgeon is an important decision, and feeling comfort and trust with the physician performing the procedure helps ensure an optimal outcome.