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Home » Media

ASDSA helps patients learn 'who's behind the white coat'

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Voices advocating for truth in medical advertising are being amplified with the help of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association.

Results from an ASDS Future Leaders Network consumer survey are being used across the country to convince lawmakers to adopt or strengthen truth in advertising legislation.

The survey of nearly 1,800 patients reveals that 99 percent of respondents want to know what type of practitioner is performing their cosmetic medical procedure.

Among other survey results:

  • 95 percent want to know the board certification of their physician.
  • 89 percent want to see level of licensure on print ads.
  • 86 percent want to see full titles spelled out on name badges.
  • 73 percent believe the level of training is the most important factor when selecting their practitioner.

These results – displayed in a one-page infographic – have already been distributed by medical groups in New York, Nebraska and Florida and are expected to be distributed in several other states. In addition, the American Medical Association sent it to its state medical association members and national specialty societies.    

In New York, the survey results and infographic were distributed by physicians advocating at the state capitol for SB 5493, a broad-based truth in advertising bill that requires transparency in medical advertising through disclosure of medical licensure in direct-to-consumer communications as well as name tags. It also would prohibit misleading claims of board certification. 

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, the bill’s author, received a 2013 Patient Safety Hero Award from ASDSA for his efforts. The bill is co-sponsored by ASDSA, the New York State Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, and the Medical Society of the State of New York, and is strongly supported by a large number of physician organizations.  

San Francisco dermatologic surgeon Ashley A. Smith, M.D., initially conducted the survey for her Future Leaders Network project to discover and report on public perception of various providers of cosmetic procedures. The respondents had undergone or were considering various cosmetic procedures, including wrinkle-relaxing injections, soft-tissue fillers, laser treatments, chemical peels, non-surgical body-sculpting procedures and liposuction.

Smith sought to determine if false advertising of medical services were a problem and if patients wanted to know the credentials of their practitioners. 

“Transparency in medical advertising allows patients to make informed decisions about where to receive their medical care,” Smith said of her survey. “The public has the right to know.” 

“In many ways, the toothpaste is really out of the tube on scope of practice,” said Smith’s project mentor, Bruce Brod, M.D., of Lancaster, Pa. “The public is being deceived by ads that are very misleading.”           

Smith said her own experience as a physician prompted her survey. “As a practicing dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, I’ve had a fair number of patients come to me after having had problems or adverse outcomes from cosmetic procedures by providers who may not have been adequately trained,” she said. “I started to get concerned about who was providing cosmetic procedures.”

According to the AMA’s Advocacy Resource Center, 17 states require disclosure of level of licensure in any advertisement of health care services. Nine stipulate under what circumstances physicians can claim board certification.

“At ASDS/ASDSA, we believe selecting a well-trained proficient physician is the single most important factor for a successful cosmetic medical procedure,” said ASDS/ASDSA President Mitchel P. Goldman, M.D. “Dr. Smith’s research highlights the desires of patients to know who is performing their treatments. We are thrilled this effort is, in turn, leading to forward progress in the important fight for truth in medical advertising.” 

For more on the survey, see ASDSA’s podcast, “Who’s Behind the White Coat: Truth in Medical Advertising,” at asdsa.asds.net/ASDSA/podcasts.


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