Neil Sadick, MD, FAAD is a Board Certified Dermatologist and Director of Sadick Aesthetic Surgery in New York. In addition to authoring several books on cosmetic surgery and lecturing nationally and internationally, he is a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and Immediate Past President of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.
Jennifer Walden, MD, FACS is Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and Director of the Walden Cosmetic Surgery Center in Austin, TX. She is a regular guest on the Fox News Channel and has been featured on E!, The Today Show, and The Early Show. She has also authored the textbook Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, available on Amazon.com.
In its short time on the market, minimally invasive fat reduction technology has created new possibilities for approaching the treatment fat. Utilizing this technology requires not only a deft understanding of its scientific and clinical components, but also a cultivating strong sense for incorporating it into practice and making it accessible to patients. This encompasses comprehensive marketing efforts, as well as tailoring the right message to patients regarding the benefits and limitations of the technology.
Jennifer Walden, MD and Neil Sadick, MD lend expert perspective from different ends of the aesthetics spectrum (plastic surgery and dermatology, respectively) on various topics related to incorporating minimally invasive fat reduction devices into practice, from marketing efforts to communicating appropriate expectations regarding treatment.
ON THE RELATIVELY RECENT EMERGENCE OF FAT REDUCTION TREATMENTS AND THE ROLE THEY PLAY IN AESTHETIC MEDICINE TODAY:
Dr. Sadick: These technologies play an important role in allowing us to approach the treatment of fat in a non-invasive or invasive way. Many individuals want non-invasive treatments and are willing to sacrifice a single treatment's efficacy and more moderate results for a no-downtime, minimally invasive approach. This technology includes ultrasound, freezing, and radiofrequency approaches, but liposuction remains the gold standard for fat removal in most individuals who require/desire a more significant body result.
Dr. Walden: In my practice, non-invasive fat devices such as the Venus Legacy device have taken on a significant role. In general, the technology can serve as both a standalone therapy for patients who do not want surgery, and an adjunct for patients who undergo liposuction, tummy tucks, facelifts, and other, more invasive procedures.
ON FINDING THE RIGHT MARKETING AND BRANDING STRATEGY:
Dr. Walden: My approach toward marketing any new technology or non-invasive technology is similar. Whether the promotion is online-, print-, or television-based, I like to provide the pros and the cons of the device and the technology, always emphasizing that it's most ideal for mild to moderate fat reduction. With minimally invasive treatments for fat reduction, there seems to be tendency to oversell and underprovide. But it's important to understand the science and methodology of these devices and explain that clearly to patients.
Another point to bear in mind when it comes to marketing is that the technology can often take on a life of its own in the media, with outside marketing efforts that can compromise the more scientifically-based physician message. This reinforces our need to continually emphasize the specific benefits and limitations of new technology. Moreover, every now and then zealous marketing efforts from the manufacturing companies can make it more of a challenge for the physician to stay on message.
Dr. Sadick: My approach is similar to other procedures. It is about explaining the procedure in detail, outlining expectations and results in a realistic fashion, showing a large number of pre- and post-photos, as well as sending patients home with informational brochures concerning the procedure. Internally, we provide brochures, and we also display before and after photo albums. We also have electronic screens in a media format educating the patients on procedures and showing them good clinical examples. Our external marketing efforts include social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter), having a strong website presence, and selected advertising and public relations venues.
ON DELIVERING THE RIGHT MESSAGE TO PATIENTS REGARDING USES, BENEFITS, AND LIMITATIONS OF MINIMALLY INVASIVE FAT TECHNOLOGY:
Dr. Sadick: Steps I take to ensure that patients understand the treatment include: Describing the technology and surgical technique in detail; Providing realistic expectations; Offering in-depth explanation of pre/post procedure course; Outlining financial commitment for each procedure; as well as explaining whether or not maintenance treatment is indicated. I also discuss how treatment may affect daily lifestyle, as well as supplemental nutritional and exercise programs associated with each chosen approach.
When it comes to procedure selection, I will often make a recommendation based on the patient's concerns, but if a patient is unsure we emphasize the new procedures and technologies we are now incorporating into our practice. In addition, we emphasize that, for any type of body contouring procedure, it is always best to optimize their weight prior to and maintaining it afterwards are two key elements necessary to ensure a high probability of a successful outcome.
Dr. Walden: The broad message I try to deliver is that these technologies can be safe and effective for certain applications, specifically mild to modest skin tightening and isolated fat reduction. I will often tell patients that these treatments do no take the place of surgical procedures, but that they offer other advantages such as expediency and little downtime, whereas there is a recovery time for surgical procedures. I also make the financial details clear upfront, so that the patient can weigh all of the factors before making a decision on which route to pursue.
When it comes to speaking with patients about these procedures, I try to avoid overselling. I let the patient tell me why they have come to see me, as well as their areas of concern. I will then provide them with options that can best achieve their wishes. Alternatively, if a patient in the post-operative period tells me that the skin in their abdomen area still feels loose, then I might be inclined to mention the Venus Legacy device and its applications, which can do additional skin tightening. However, when it comes to “pitching” standalone therapies, the patient must be requesting a very specific type of procedure.
ON THE IMPACT OF NON-INVASIVE FAT REDUCTION TECHNOLOGIES ON “TRADITIONAL” FAT REDUCTION:
Dr. Walden: I see minimally invasive procedures and surgical procedures for fat reduction more as complementary than competitive. In my practice, we see a whole range of patients, for surgical and non-surgical procedures. Some patients only want skin tightening, others want only liposuction, and others get both. Thus, the addition of minimally invasive fat reduction devices has not taken the place of anything in my practice. They're more like icing on the cake.
Dr. Sadick: These technologies have created a better awareness of body contouring and fat reduction procedures and services as the entrance point for various patients who initially begin with non-invasive procedures but then transfer into more traditional liposuction procedures as they begin to see improvement in their body contouring. I think there is an increased emphasis in body contouring procedures, so both patients and the public in general need to be aware of the breadth of technologies and new procedural modifications that are available as well as enhanced safety and efficacy of the aforementioned approach.
ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NEW MODALITIES AND HOW PHYSICIANS CAN BEST APPROACH NEW TECHNOLOGIES:
DR. Sadick: New technology such as fat reduction devices offers whole new opportunities for expanding the dermatologic and cosmetic surgery practice and shows that aesthetic surgery procedures are evolving in a revolutionary way. The opportunity is here for patients to benefit from these non-invasive and minimally invasive treatment approach. We should do harness these technologies in a professional, educational, and non-commercial fashion, which will ultimately help promote and give patients a greater confidence and trust in these emerging procedures.
Dr. Walden: I feel like we are still in a zealot phase of this technology, but some of it, such as radiofrequency and cryolipolysis, has really shown to be effective. The more we learn about and study these devices and their applications, their prospects grow more exciting. I don't see these technologies going away. Rather, they will be refined and will evolve into something better. They won't ever take the place of liposuction, but they have greater potential as an adjunct and in some cases as a standalone therapy.