An Allegorical Liposuction Story
-Win Pound, M.D.
There is a place near my office that does liposuction. That’s all they do – liposuction. It is part of a large franchise that has a huge marketing budget for TV and radio commercials as well as ads in the print media and internet. They are very busy all the time. Still, if you look them up online, they get a lot of bad reviews from patients. Why is that? Surely, a group that is that big must offer great surgery, right?
From a marketing perspective, I could never compete with this company. I have a very limited budget for marketing. Instead, I rely on happy patients who refer their friends and neighbors to me based on their good experience with our office.
I looked into this other company a year or so ago and this is what I found. When you come into their very nice, spacious offices, you are met by a well-groomed, pleasant receptionist. You are carefully screened by a nurse and an appointment is set up for your surgery. You don’t meet the doctor who is performing the surgery until you are literally about to head back into surgery. The surgery itself is done completely under local anesthesia. This is usually much more uncomfortable than doing it under general anesthesia where the patient doesn’t feel anything.
In my office, you meet with me at your initial consultation so that I can examine you and review the risks and benefits of liposuction as well as any other options that might work. I also see you prior to surgery as well as at all of your follow-up visits. I prefer to use general anesthesia for liposuction because I feel like I can be a lot more aggressive and get more fat removed this way.
The cost of liposuction is roughly the same for myself and the other company. So where does that money go? With me, the money goes to the surgery center, the anesthesiologist, and myself. With the other company, there is no anesthesiologist and only a small percentage of the money goes to the doctor performing the surgery. The rest goes towards the company and their massive marketing budget.
I hate to editorialize – okay, I don’t hate to editorialize – but this seems to reflect the status of medicine in general these days. Patients are paying out a lot of money for insurance and other costs. In return, they are getting less than optimum treatment. On the other end of the bell curve are the doctors who are receiving only a pittance of the money being spent. The beneficiary? The bureaucrats and middlemen. Whether it is the company near my office with their million dollar marketing budget or the insurance company, this is where the money is going, not into patient care.