An industry cleanup for the sake of patient safety is coming to many doctors offering cosmetic surgery procedures in Australia. New regulations issued intend to regulate rogue cosmetic operators.
Starting July 1, 2023, cosmetic surgery practitioners will be prohibited from using photoshopped images as well as influencer testimonials.
Effective July 1, 2023:
The following excerpts come from revised guidelines for registered medical practitioners performing cosmetic surgery in Australia, effective July 1, 2023:
- “All patients seeking cosmetic surgery must have a referral, preferably from their usual general practitioner or if that is not possible, from another general practitioner or other specialist medical practitioner….”
- “There must be a cooling-off period of at least seven days after the patient has had two consultations and given informed consent (signed consent forms), before the surgery can be booked or a deposit paid.”
- “The medical practitioner must not provide or offer to provide free or discounted surgery to prospective patients, including social media influencers or users, for promotion of cosmetic surgery or services.”
Potential patients must obtain a referral from their GP, with whom they should discuss their interest and motivation for getting a procedure.
Doctors in Australia who provide cosmetic procedures have three months to remove misleading or deceptive posts across social media platforms, or face disciplinary action.
These new practice guidelines were issued by the Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Last year, federal and state health ministers said they were taking action to ensure patient safety. They included reforms that would ban unqualified doctors from using the term “cosmetic surgeon.”
The need for these measures was underscored by the findings of a 2022 investigative report by The Herald, The Age, and 60 Minutes. The report exposed countless cases of patients suffering permanent pain and disfigurement. Many others were scarred due to the incompetence of untrained doctors.
Based on recent statistics, the global cosmetic surgery market in 2021 was valued at $67.3 billion. By 2031, it is estimated to reach $201-billion, an 11.6% CAGR from 2022 to 2031.
Under the new stricter guidelines, advertisements for cosmetic surgery must not use false claims, provide discounts without clear terms and conditions, or use patient testimonials.
Additionally, advertisements must not create unrealistic expectations, such as promoting excessive or indiscriminate use of surgical procedures.
To help patients make informed decisions, those interested in cosmetic surgery must get a referral from a general practitioner (GP). This allows the patient to understand their interest and reasons for getting the procedure. GPs can share information about what patients can expect and refer them to a qualified specialist.
Dr. Anne Tonkin, Chair of the Medical Board, declared that the cosmetic surgery industry needs to be reformed for the sake of patients. She has stated that the profession will be closely monitored. And any doctor who violates the standards and endangers patients can face disciplinary action. The board has the power to issue a warning or restrict practices.
AHPRA’s efforts to combat misleading cosmetic surgery advertising received praise from Professor Anand Deva, Director of Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery at Macquarie University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Science.
Deva condemned the inappropriate content posted by some cosmetic surgery providers on various social media platforms. Deva criticized experts for tagging influencers to promote their services and encourage patients to get surgery. He commended AHPRA’s actions to tackle such practices.
Based on 2023 studies, Instagram is a powerful marketing tool for plastic surgeons. Patients use social media to see before-and-after results, find surgeons, and share their experiences. Influencers have a major role to play. They have the biggest following making them detrimental to building brand awareness and promoting specific surgeons or clinics.
Further data shows similar results. Instagram provides a solid opportunity for cosmetic surgeons to visually demonstrate their surgical results to potential clients. Instagram allows surgeons to reach thousands with a single post.
A unique example of this type of advertising is the birth of the “Instagram doll”. The people who call themselves dolls are patients who had cosmetic surgery. They documented their desires to change their looks and posted the results after surgery.
Dolls are using hashtags to connect to specific providers and advertise their work. Strategies such as these give plastic surgeons exposure, connection, following, and feedback.
But, these posts are preying on vulnerable women. Many are photoshopped, and don’t discuss the risks of surgery, and possible complications. It is critical to give patients a realistic perspective before they choose to have surgery.