By far the most common question I am asked is the question of cost. Especially in today's world, this is obviously an important consideration, but the implication in most of these inquiries is that the person asking the question is not interested in anything else, unless his or her sense of having found a great price is satisfied.
This is very disturbing, on many levels. Whether it be a lawyer, an architect, or an engineer, you would expect to pay a bit more for a professional with a top-notch education, excellent training, and lots of experience who does quality work and has a reputation for treating people fairly. You would also think that most people understand that insisting on these qualities in a plastic surgeon is particularly important, considering that you will be putting your health and safety (to say nothing of your sense of beauty and personal satisfaction) in their hands.
Of course it is hard to blame the public, bombarded as we are by the constant media message that you can have it (!) and cheap!!
It is axiomatic that you generally get what you pay for in life, and also that if you search hard enough for something (like a bargain price) you will generally find it.
I guess my message to people interested in plastic surgery is that you should be searching for lots of things (price being just one of them--and not the most important one).
So, all that being said, how would a person best be able to cut through all the marketing mumbo jumbo and find the surgeon most likely to help them achieve their satisfaction?
What we're really trying to get to the bottom of is, how do you maximize your chances of getting the outcome you want, with safety, and a comfortable and pleasant experience?
First of all, it is important to understand that while your chosen surgeon is probably the most important factor in achieving the above, there are other important considerations as well.
Find a surgeon you really like FIRST. Too many patients search for a price they like, or for a surgeon who is willing to do a certain procedure on them (whether it is really in their best interests or not). First and foremost, you should be looking for a quality education, top-notch training in plastic surgery, with board certification BY THE AMERICAN BOARD OF PLASTIC SURGERY (there are many "boards", but only certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery ensures that the surgeon has undergone the years of plastic surgery specific training and examination you want). Provided the surgeon has these qualifications, it is important that you like them and feel you can get along well with them--you are, after all, entering into an important relationship.
If these two criteria are satisfied, it's time to evaluate his/her work and expertise... ask to see examples of his/her work, and maybe even to talk to some former patients. They will be best able to tell you what it was like to be cared for by this surgeon. Whatever you do, remember that quality professional treatment (whether by a plastic surgeon, an architect, or any other professional) will carry a price appropriate for the surgeon's level of training and expertise.
Once you have found a surgeon you like, it is important to know about THE FACILITY, and who will be providing your ANESTHESIA. Having a great surgeon won't matter if the facility is less than safe, or if your anesthesia provider is under-qualified or suspect. Most good surgeons make sure the facilities and anesthesia providers they use are reputable, but this is not always the case, particularly as surgeons have scrambled (like everyone else) to save money in these more difficult times. It is very important that the facility is certified by either the JCAHO or AAAASF. These regulatory bodies inspect facilities for safety and cleanliness, as well as verifying the training of the personnel involved in your care.
Your anesthesia provider can be a qualified nurse anesthetist, or an anesthesiologist (a doctor of anesthesia). My personal opinion is that the additional cost of having an anesthesiologist present and managing your care is more than worth it.
So there it is--research the surgeon, the facility, the anesthesiologist, and get a feel for the surgeon's work and manner with his/her patients. You'll be glad you went to all this trouble in the long run!