Virtual Consultations

In my opinion, when it comes to the plastic surgeon-patient relationship, there’s no substitute for in-person, face-to-face time. So, when I read an article from The New York Times discussing virtual consultations, I was skeptical. Maybe virtual consultations are the way of the future. Or, maybe their continued use will reveal that the pitfalls far outweigh the benefits. For the present, I choose to see my Walnut Creek plastic surgery patients only in person. Here’s why.

Usually a virtual consultation involves a series of photographs transmitted online. But the truth is, although a picture may be worth a thousand words, no photograph can ever be a completely clear representation of what someone actually looks like. Photographs are two-dimensional, flat, and very susceptible to human error (resulting in out-of-focus, dark-colored, fuzzy images). And the patient’s demeanor and complete health history also play a vital role in assessing the right treatments (or whether a cosmetic treatment is appropriate at all).

Besides my concerns about quality of care, I’m equally daunted by the idea of navigating the legal minefield of virtual consultations. A patient-doctor relationship is formed when the doctor begins to diagnose and treat the patient. This is tricky when the exchange happens online, because the doctor could easily be establishing this patient-doctor relationship with patients in another state where they are not licensed.

Legally, ethically, and practically, I have my concerns about virtual consultations. What about you? Have you had a positive or negative experience with online consultations?

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