Barb: Plastic surgeons have been advertising their services for years with before and after photos. You go to any website of a cosmetic plastic surgeon and you’ve got different categories of before and after pictures. Well, for the last couple of years, there is one Toronto plastic surgeon, and I’m not going to name them because there are a few doing this, but this one has been using his Instagram account to increase business by showing the steps in between, by showing videos and photos of procedures like liposuction, breast augmentation, Brazilian butt lift, in all the sort of gory detail, for those of us who are a little bit queasy, on Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
So, we thought we would go to, of course, our favorite cosmetic plastic surgeon and regular guest on our show. He’s the founder of SpaMedica and Canada’s top cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Stephen Mulholland. Welcome to the show.
Dr. Mulholland: Thank you, Barb. Thanks for having me.
Barb: So, I know that SpaMedica has at least a Twitter account, because I follow you guys on Twitter, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything along these lines. So, what is your sort of view in terms of your social media presence?
Dr. Mulholland: I think it’s an interesting question. I grew up in the ’90s, and this decade [inaudible 00:01:17] 1994, physicians were allowed to advertise. The question was, what is that advertising, and we have an advertising code of ethics that comes from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. In general, I’m in favor of physicians being able to broadcast a surgery live as long as the consumer and the watcher understands the full breadth of the procedure, the risks and the benefits, to be able to see the outcomes, and remember, they still need a consultation with a surgeon prior to surgery.
Barb: Do you actually put any of your surgeries on your social media?
Dr. Mulholland: I’ve been doing television, City Line, since 1995, and the Today Show-
Barb: You know what, Dr. Mulholland, I’ve just got to put you on hold for a second, because there’s something with the line, so we’re just going to do that and see if we can get a little bit of a better connection. Sometimes the roving cell phones cut in and out depending on where you are in the home.
All right. Are we back on with Dr. Mulholland? Let’s see.
Dr. Mulholland: Yeah, I’m back on an old school landline.
Barb: Oh, you can’t get rid of the landline because otherwise you can’t do radio interviews.
Dr. Mulholland: Crazy. It’s crazy.
Barb: I know. So, let’s start again, and just maybe let us know.
Dr. Mulholland: Sure.
Barb: You were mentioning that you’ve done TV for a long time.
Dr. Mulholland: Yeah, so, back in 1994, that was the first year, Barb, that doctors in Ontario could advertise. 1994. Before that, we couldn’t. As of 1994, there are fairly clear guidelines on advertising and non-advertising guidelines, and in 1997 I started doing City Line, and then breakfast television, and ET, and E-Talk, and Rogers and Bell, Today Show. The difference was that there were always reporters. The reporters would vet a story, cover the surgeon’s angle, cover the patient’s angle, and then talk about some of the risks and benefits. It was a fairly balanced television presentation to the consumer.
In this day and age of social media, it’s very important that the consumer, the potential patient, realizes this is just the doctor’s view of the procedure, and the patient is generally not paying for the procedure, and quite often they don’t see the risks and the after and the recovery. However, having said that, I’m still a big fan of information for potential patients, and if a patient wants to watch all of the grizzly details of a complete procedure, they don’t need to go on the doctor’s Instagram account. They can just go on YouTube. Every procedure ever performed of plastic surgery is available on YouTube, and they can watch live procedures all day long if they want to.
I think it’s a good thing. The more information the better, but it’s very, very important that that is followed up with consultations, during which you talk about the risk, the benefits, and the recovery. The average patient like you or other patients may not want to watch all the grizzly details and just find out little bits and snippets of information, but if it’s something you want to see, the procedure from beginning to end, YouTube is by far the most watched social media channel, and everything’s available from all over the world, from hundreds of surgeons, not just one surgeon’s perspective on Instagram.
Barb: But if you’ve got a surgeon, say like yourself or somebody else, who is actually using their own social media accounts to put stuff like that out, do you risk scaring people off?
Dr. Mulholland: I certainly think you do, and this particular surgeon, he’s young, and he’s a certified plastic surgeon. That’s the important thing. Remember in Ontario, we’re lucky. You cannot call yourself a surgeon unless you’re a certified plastic surgeon. In some provinces, that isn’t the case. I was reading the article, kind of chuckling, because the surgeon was saying it was almost like they were performing some sort of philanthropy in ensuring patients were educated. This is purely lead generation, or trying to attract patients to your practice, and there’s nothing wrong with it. It probably is not [inaudible 00:05:27] the guidelines of the college, but it’s more about generating interest for your practice than it is about making sure patients are educated, because as I said, YouTube, which is far more watched than Instagram, has thousands of doctors who perform live breast augments on it, live nose jobs, live face lifts, and so I’m not a big fan of having live, gory surgery on my social media channels because they can go on YouTube and research with some valid stories.
But I certainly appreciate that many patients, especially the young ones, they’re addicted to YouTube. I look to my kids. Five of them are in their twenties, and they can’t exist without that handheld attached to their ear and their eye, and they watch all manner of crazy videos. I think it appeals to a younger patient population, and I think that’s great. The more information a patient has that’s responsibly presented, the better. I don’t think it needs to be regulated because most people are going to turn it off and go, “Ooh,” and the ones that don’t are seeking a special kind of relationship with a surgeon that does that, and that’s great for them.
Barb: Dr. Stephen Mulholland, thank you for this, and do not ever get rid of your landline.
Dr. Mulholland: Oh, I’m never, not after tonight. I promise I won’t, Barb. Goodness gracious. Next time I’ll fax you.
Barb: Dr. Mulholland, thank you very much.
Dr. Mulholland: Okay, thank you.
Barb: Founder of SpaMedica, and one of Canada’s best cosmetic surgeons.