For a patient considering cosmetic surgery, online forums can be a great way to interact, communicate and swap information. However, when it comes to looking for recommendations for a particular surgeon, the internet is a minefield.
Do cosmetic surgery forums help? As with anything in the online world, objectivity and neutrality are not always what they seem in forums. People can, and do, colour their experiences according to their mood, whim or agenda. Whether the comments are positive or negative, you should always read them with suspicion. Taking the advice of a totally unknown person who is writing anonymously is not the same as getting a real-life word of mouth recommendation.
I often hear about people choosing their surgeon based on a single recommendation on a forum. This worries me. Every patient is different. Just because one patient has had a good or bad experience with a particular surgeon, does not mean that you will too. Surgery is not a product you buy off the shelf.
Negative posts have to be taken with caution as well. Studies have concluded that a happy customer tells between 2-3 people about their experience, but an unhappy customer tells 9-11 people. This makes for an uncomfortable bias to the reviews that you end up hearing. With the internet, customer reviews are able to reach more people than ever, and this bias becomes especially troubling.
Of course, we all know that things can and do go wrong with surgery and inevitably, sometimes patients will feel unhappy or disappointed with their results. There’s not a surgeon on the planet who has a history of 100% happy patients. Bad reviews are fairly inevitable, so it’s tough to work out whether a surgeon is getting more than their fair share. Even if there are ten or so bad reviews, it might look bad at first glance, but surgeons can see over 800 patients a year, so it’s actually a tiny percentage.
Aside from all of this, due to the anonymity of the world-wide-web, it’s well known that people often serve their own agendas with false posts or exaggerations, not to mention multiple posts by the same users or positive reviews from the surgeon’s friends and family.
We’re all capable of cutting through the reams of biased and unfair posts that appear online. When well managed, forums can be helpful platforms for discussion and recommendation. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. When deciding on a cosmetic surgeon, it’s always best to make a shortlist and go and meet with the surgeons themselves. Make sure that every surgeon on your shortlist is properly certified and accredited. Take a look at photos of their past work, don’t be afraid to ask questions and most of all, make sure you feel happy and comfortable with the surgeon themselves and with the atmosphere of their surgery. A single visit to a surgeon’s office will tell you more than a thousand forum posts.