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Predictions for this Oddest of Years

As the COVID-19 pandemic has changed life in some way for all of us, there were even more unknowns for our plastic surgery practices. How would they fare during mandatory lockdowns and afterward? Would patients be wary of venturing out for any medical procedures, much less aesthetic ones? How would the whole virtual online world work for consultations? Would people be less inclined to have cosmetic surgery moving forward?

Lots of ifs.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) wanted to find out some of those answers, so throughout June, it conducted a survey to understand what procedures were top of mind among patients. The goal was to see whether the public’s mindset had shifted on preferred treatments.

Since we have many plastic surgeons on our Advice Media practice list, let’s get into what people were talking about and how that compared to 2019.

The survey

The ASPS conducted the survey of 350 members in May and June. The results were based on what practices were seeing as they resumed in-office visits for patients, and on what they had learned during their prior telemedicine consultations.

Telemedicine

About telemedicine, COVID-19 has moved the bar forward exponentially in a very short period of time. Analysts had originally predicted virtual medical office visits would be around 36 million for this year. That mirrored a growing trend.

Then came the virus, and no one could leave their house. Hello online doctor visits. The new prediction for 2020’s number of virtual office visits? Over 220 million. Still, while virtual office visits can be used for diagnosis and possible treatment options for some general health issues, they don’t work in the same way for aesthetic practices. After all, you may be able to tell a patient that he or she would be a good candidate for blepharoplasty, but you cannot perform the surgery virtually.

  • The ASPS survey found that plastic surgery practices were using telemedicine for virtual consultations, with 64% of respondents noting an increase in their telemedicine consultations compared to last year before COVID-19.
  • 68% of respondents said they started seeing patients virtually because of the virus.

What were patients inquiring about during these consultations?

During their online consultations during COVID-19, patients were interested in these procedures:

  1. Botulinum toxin type A — 65%
  2. Breast augmentation — 44%
  3. Soft tissue fillers — 37%
  4. Liposuction — 30%
  5. Abdominoplasty — 24%

Another survey conducted by the ASPS (through Quester) asked consumers how they felt about plastic surgery, and the top treatments they were interested in.

  • 49% of those who haven’t had plastic surgery said they were open to a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure in the future.
  • Of those, 28% would consider a first-time cosmetic procedure.
  • Rhinoplasty, facelifts, and breast augmentation were the most considered procedures.
  • Those who had previous procedures reported an improvement in their overall confidence.

How does the above compare with last year?

While the ASPS anticipates there will be a decrease in the total number of cosmetic procedures in 2020 due office closing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they also predict ongoing strong demand for various procedures now that most offices have reopened.

Compare the list above from virtual consultations this spring and summer during the virus with the top five cosmetic surgical procedures performed in 2019 listed here:

  1. Breast augmentation (299,715 procedures)
  2. Liposuction (265,209 procedures)
  3. Eyelid surgery (211,005 procedures)
  4. Nose reshaping (207,284 procedures)
  5. Facelift (123,685 procedures)

And these top five minimally invasive cosmetic procedures from 2019:

  1. Botulinum toxin type A (7.69 million procedures)
  2. Soft tissue fillers (2.72 million procedures)
  3. Chemical peels (1.38 million procedures)
  4. Laser hair removal (1.0 million procedures)
  5. Intense pulsed light (685,755 procedures)

As you can see when comparing the numbers between surgical and non-surgical procedures, the numbers are higher across the board for non-surgical treatments in 2019. But initial online consultations during the COVID period of 2020 showed high interest in three surgical procedures: breast augmentation, liposuction, and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). Other colloquial evidence shows a strong interest in eyelid surgery, brow lifts, and neck lifts. This interest would be far higher than just their numbers from 2019. Maybe all of that close-up time spent on Zoom and FaceTime made many people reevaluate a couple things about their faces and bodies!

These are encouraging trends for our Advice Media practices that had to close for three or more months this spring and early summer. It bodes well for the rest of this year and even more so when a vaccine eventually becomes available. The nation’s most famous epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said he expects to see a viable vaccine by early 2021.

For our Advice Media practices, and for us all, that will be most welcome news indeed!

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