May 4, 2018

The Important Distinction Between Core and Non-Core Physicians

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By Eileen Spatz

Let’s say you are in the market for a new home. Everybody likes the idea of saving a buck or two when shopping for a large purchase, so when you hear that there is a new subdivision of homes on the market that, for some reason or another, are priced substantially below the cost of similar homes your ears perk up. Wow, imagine saving ten percent on the home—we’d even have money left to take the family to Tahiti, too, you envision.

To the untrained eye the homes appear to be of good quality. The problem is that unlicensed or shady contractors and scabs had built the homes during a labor strike. In short order, problems with drywall cracks, plumbing leaks, and foundation issues make it apparent that it was short-sighted and ignorant to have entrusted your family’s safety in their home to unqualified workers who put out a shoddy product.

Regardless of whether this home purchase scenario would actually happen in the real world, when it comes to purchasing aesthetic procedures that will impact your appearance and potentially your health, non-core doctors carry out this exact scenario at the local med-spa. Cut-rate cosmetic procedures offered at medical spas are luring unsuspecting beauty seekers in the door using misleading qualifications, phony testimonials, and dubious credentials.

Core versus Non-Core Physicians
The very first question to ask before placing your face or body into the hands of a doctor-directed med-spa is whether the person doing the procedure is a core physician or a non-core physician. A core physician who was trained and educated for the express purpose of providing aesthetic medical services. That can include plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, and other related fields. These professionals spent sixteen years post-high school graduation to qualify for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).  This certification represents extensive training in their field, refining the skills and knowledge needed to provide the highest level of professional standards within the spectrum of plastic surgery and aesthetic care.

A non-core doctor is not certified by the ABPS but rather provides aesthetic procedures, such as breast augmentation or tummy tucks outside the scope of his or her own specialty. These doctors may hold directorships at a local med-spa where cosmetic procedures are provided at a cut-rate price, but be be “board certified” in orthopedic medicine or dentistry, for example. The unsuspecting consumer sees only that the doctor is board certified without the knowledge that they are board certified in an entirely unrelated medical specialty.

Med-Spa Docs Follow Easy Money?
Lucrative opportunities at medical spas draw in doctors seeking to augment their income with minimal effort. As a medical director, the doctor—who might be an ob/gyn, an internist, or an ophthalmologist—provides the much-needed physician presence that the consumer desires as a symbol of high standards and industry (they think) qualifications.  Directorships at med-spas require minimal involvement outside of monthly patient visits, and doctors reap handsome financial rewards through these off-price cosmetic treatment facilities.

It is clear that some doctors—possibly a general practitioner, an ER doc, or a gynecologist—who head up these spas see them as an avenue for easy money. Some may risk losing their medical license, however, by not adhering to the regulations in place for med-spa directorships. In many states, these facilities are supposed to be wholly owned by the doctor, not just have a doctor working as a contractor for a med-spa business owner.  

Another area of noncompliance involves doctors who provide aesthetic medical services outside their own medical specialty.  The doctor who is the medical director of a facility that provides cosmetic procedures is supposed to primarily practice as a plastic surgeon.  For a gynecologist to be directing and supervising such procedures, with no practical training or experience in plastic surgery, is rife with potential liability issues.  Med-spas that operate out of compliance with the state laws not only put the patients at risk of experiencing adverse treatment results, but the doctor as medical director will be held legally responsible when procedures go awry.

Savvy Consumers Seek APBS Certification
Just as the bargain house built with unqualified workers initially appeared to be equivalent in craftsmanship to more expensive home—until the shoddy work is ultimately exposed—so too will the sub-standard cosmetic results of unqualified med-spa doctors be exposed.  Consumers must ask the right questions when shopping for cosmetic procedures.  

Instead of inquiring if the doctor is “board certified,” the savvy shopper asks if the doctor is a plastic surgeon by trade with APBS certification.  Let the answer to that single question dictate whether or not you move forward to the next step of the decision-making process.  There are many areas in life where bargain hunting is appropriate—buying a jacket, a box of cereal, a hammer—but a plastic surgery procedure isn’t one of them.  After all, you only have one face.  Who are you going to trust it to?

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Aesthetic Industry