The popular website RealSelf.com, where people who are considering (or have had) a cosmetic procedure get answers about cosmetic plastic surgery, dermatology, and dentistry, recently announced their list of 100 doctors dedicated to providing consumers with credible online information. Of course, the reason I mention this is that I am included in this elite group, comprised of only the top 2% of more than 5000 members in the doctor community. The real genius of Real Self is bringing together board-certified experts with consumers, who are able to share their unvarnished opinions about various cosmetic medical procedures and obtain practical advice from the participating doctors and dentists.
But how “real” is this benefit to cosmetic plastic surgery patients? It all depends on how you use the site. For example, a frequent question has to do with a surgical plan that a patient has been given after a consultation, and they want some confirmation that the plan is a good one. Although photos are often posted, it is worth keeping in mind that only a physician who has personally seen you can give specific medical advice. I don’t like second-guessing the opinions of someone who has actually seen the patient, though many participating surgeons seem to have no qualms about doing so. (There are legal issues involved here too; if a specific medical opinion is ventured, a doctor-patient relationship might be construed.) Often however a consensus will form from the various surgeons in the reply string, which can be very useful to someone unsure of which way to go. Another useful tool is the “worth it” rating index, which ranks procedures according to patient reviews. (For example the mommy makeover is always near the top at a 98% worth it rating, cellulite treatments usually near the bottom.)
Increasingly however it seems that patients who are concerned about a problem fairly soon after surgery are going online rather than asking their own surgeon. I frankly avoid these questions since because I have no direct knowledge of the details of the procedure I am simply not in a position to answer. And even for the prospective patient who has not had anything done, the virtual consultation is no substitute for personal evaluation and discussion.