Monday, November 3, 2014

The Importance of Plastic Surgery Board Certification

Doctors have always been perceived as making a lot of money. What people don't realize is that it takes a lot of time and money to become a doctor. Most doctors spend four years in medical school followed by anywhere from two to eight years in residency learning their craft. During this time, they incur a great deal of debt. Once they are out of residency, they must spend even more money establishing and maintaining a practice.

When managed care first arrived on the scene during the Clinton years, reimbursement for medical services by doctors was severely cut, leaving doctors struggling to repay residency loans and also to cover the costs of running their practice. In addition to making much less than they previously made through insurance, managed care agencies would drag their feet in paying the small amount that they would allow. Some doctors would have to hire another person in their office just to bulldog these agencies if they wanted to get paid at all.

So what does all of this have to do with board certification? In order to make ends meet, many doctors take weekend courses in cosmetic surgery in order to supplement their office income. Cosmetic surgery is paid for in cash, so doctors don't have to deal with stubborn insurance companies. While this approach might help alleviate the financial problems of doctors, a weekend course does not make them terribly qualified to perform complex cosmetic surgery procedures. These are the procedures that take qualified plastic surgeons years of training to perfect. A plastic surgery residency is the longest residency of any medical specialty.

In this country, anyone with an M.D. degree can perform any medical procedure that they want to perform. There is no regulation over who does what. As a result, many doctors in specialties other than plastic surgery now tout themselves in their advertising as "board certified plastic surgeons." While they may be board certified in some medical specialty, it is not plastic surgery. There are twenty-four specialties recognized by the American Medical Association. Only the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is recognized for the training and certification of plastic surgeons. Only plastic surgeons certified by the ABPS have completed the rigorous training and certifying exams to make them qualified to perform such surgery.

With the advent of the internet and the age of information, we have the ability to research surgical procedures and the doctors who perform them. Still, I get patients in my office who opted to cut corners financially or simply didn't realize that the doctor who performed their cosmetic surgery was not, in reality, a "board certified plastic surgeon" as he advertised. Now they are paying even more to correct their bad result. Plastic surgery, like any surgery, is a life-changing event. It pays to get the most qualified doctor that you can which is why it is always good to make sure that the doctor doing the surgery is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Accept no others!

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