The demand for cosmetic services has risen rapidly in recent years, but has slowed down with the current economic downturn. Managed care organizations and Medicare have been steadily reducing their reimbursements for physician services. The payment for reconstructive surgical procedures has been decreasing and is likely to worsen with healthcare reform, and many plastic surgery residency programs are facing fiscal challenges. An adequate volume of patients needing cosmetic services is necessary to recruit and train the best candidates to the residency programs. Self-pay patients will help ensure the fiscal viability of plastic surgery residency programs. Attracting patients to an academic healthcare center will become more difficult in a recession without the appropriate facilities, programs, and pricing strategies. Setting up a modern cosmetic services program at an academic center has some unique challenges, including funding, academic politics, and turf. The authors opened a free-standing academic multidisciplinary center at their medical school 3 years ago. The center is an off-site, 13,000-sq ft facility that includes faculty from plastic surgery, ear, nose, and throat, dermatology, and vascular surgery. In this article, the authors discuss the process of developing and executing a plan for starting an aesthetic services center in an academic setting. The financing of the center and factors in pricing services are discussed. The authors show the impact of the center on their cosmetic surgery patient volumes, resident education, and finances. They expect that their experience will be helpful to other plastic surgery programs at academic medical centers.
From the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
Received for publication July 27, 2010; accepted March 18, 2011.
Disclosure: The authors have no financial disclosures or conflicts of interest to report.
Venkat K. Rao, M.D., M.B.A.; Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, G5/354 CSC 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, Wis. 53792-3236, email@example.com