Groupon, Living Social, and other on-line deal providers have revolutionized on-line shopping and created a competitive environment to give consumers an advantage. In a typical Groupon transaction, a business agrees to sell its product or service at a discount by advertising it on Groupon. The payment for services is given to Groupon directly, and Groupon reimburses the business a fraction (usually 50%) of the amount it collects. The discounted service is typically 50% off the usual fees, which means that the business receives about 25% of its normal retail charges. Depending on the service, the business barely will make enough from this transaction to cover the cost of the service, making a very minimal if any profit. Why do businesses do this? With the popularity of the "daily deal" sites, this is basically a form of advertising to attract new patients who may continue to do business with the establishment in the future.
While offering discounts for restaurants and services is a great way to find out about new businesses, there have been a few doctors who are offering medical procedures on Groupon as well. Procedures like Botox and liposuction may seem harmless, but may bring about a variety of legal and ethical concerns. Federal law prohibits physicians from paying another person or entity in exchange for patient referrals. It is possible that physicians who use Groupon violate this rule. By selling the service and giving the physician half the amount the patient pays, Groupon is essentially splitting the patient's fee with the physician in exchange for sending the patient in for treatment. California has strict rules specifically against physicians offering or accepting a discount, rebate, or a fee-splitting arrangement to induce referrals. Physician use of Groupons may also violate professional codes of ethics. Can you trust a physician who is willing to compromise ethics?
There is nothing wrong with having a relaxing facial or a massage at the cosmetic doctor's office, but any medical procedure that has a certain element of risk, should follow a more strict set of guidelines. When risks may cause injury to the patient or even more serious complications, there should be more thought given to the selection of the doctor than "the one who has the best deal". Consider that the physician receives only about 25 percent of their normal fee for accepting a Groupon deal. Think to yourself, “Why is this physician offering such a significant discount? Does he or she not have enough patients without it?” When choosing a physician to perform a medical procedure you should strongly consider the quality of their work, their experience, their training, and their safety record. Do your research. Ask to see the doctor's credentials and ask how long they have been doing these procedures. Ask the physician to show you their board certification or their specialty certificate. Ask to see their own results (not generic photos from other doctors). Ask how the physician deals with complications. It is a fact that complications may happen and untrained doctors may not know how to recognize and treat them, leaving you to fend for yourself during the most vulnerable time. While it may seem like a good deal at the time, you will be spending even more if the procedure is botched and you are left injured, or if you are required to pay another physician to fix the problem.
Groupons are a great way to discover a new product or business. But when it comes to your health, it takes more than what seems as a good deal to choose the right physician. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you are considering a groupon deal for a cosmetic procedure, take a step back, think about it, and call our office to evaluate all your options. You may pay slightly more, but as the saying goes: "You get what you pay for". Is your peace of mind is worth it?