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Hospital Plastic Surgery Business Grows

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, May 4, 2012

This article appears in the April 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

In healthcare, the plastic surgery business is more than skin deep, but not wrinkle free.

Cosmetic plastic surgery is often tied to the variables of economic trends, but some hospital officials are seeing an uptick in certain procedures. Patients are opting for more facelifts and eyelid surgeries. And they are seeking more of the lower-cost procedures such as chemical peels, Botox, and "fillers" to get the shape and proportion of faces, noses, and breasts they want, even if it is temporary.

Plastic surgery for medical purposes continues to advance. Breast reconstruction surgery is increasing—by at least 8% in 2010, with many instances linked to cancer cases, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The 2011 American College of Surgeons reported that the number of women undergoing breast reconstruction procedures doubled between 1998 and 2007.

Overall, there were 13.8 million cosmetic procedures (surgical and minimally invasive) in 2011, up 5% since 2010, and 5.5 million reconstructive plastic surgeries in 2011, up 5% over 2010.

Hospitals that have offered a wide range of multidisciplinary programs related to cosmetic as well as medical procedures are seeing increased patient load.

"We have seen a significant increase in our breast reconstruction annually," says Rod J. Rohrich, MD, chair of the department of plastic surgery at the 424-bed University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, which reported an overall 10% increase in plastic surgery procedures over the past several years.

As for cosmetic procedures, they are "self-pay, and obviously that’s waxed and waned over the years," Rohrich says. "I still think patients want to look as good as they feel. If they don’t want to pay for major procedures, they’ll resort to more temporizing and cost-effective fillers like Botox, which will make them look good but not be as costly or as permanent as a facelift."

For its breast cancer patients especially, UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center specializes in a multidisciplinary approach for its plastic surgery program that relies on partnerships with oncologists, radiation oncologists, and breast imagers in the same facility, Rohrich says. As part of its specialty care, the hospital targets patients with a family history of breast cancer or high-risk benign breast conditions, using a comprehensive risk counseling program developed at UT Southwestern.

To generate more ROI, UT Southwestern built what hospital officials described as a four-star hotel for patients, bringing them from around the world, whether it be for facial rejuvenation or body and breast contouring. The UT Southwestern campus includes a 21,000-square-foot outpatient surgical facility as well as Medallion Guest Suites, which are available for patients resting and recovering from treatment or surgery.

The suites have "contributed to our ability to attract patients from around the globe with the concept of comprehensive, private, and safe patient care in a protected environment that is not in a hospital setting," Rohrich says.

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