When Brian Reedy wanted to market his Berks County plastic surgery practice, he turned to Facebook Live and put his face – and body – on the line. In a series of live streaming videos, Reedy, a board-certified plastic surgeon who sports a muscled physique and not much apparent body fat, undergoes DualSculpting (a nonsurgical way to remove fat) and receives Botox injections. It's all in the name of introducing viewers, especially men, to the benefits of nonsurgical cosmetic procedures and – not incidentally – to advertise his wares.
"I think Facebook Live is a really powerful tool that can reach a lot of people," said Reedy, whose Berks Plastic Surgery practice is about 65 miles northwest of Center City. "DualSculpting was something I wanted to get done. Rather than recruiting a patient, I decided to do it myself, which was both fun and fulfilling."
Reedy, 51, who is also part owner and marketer for Chatty Monks Brewing Co., a craft beer pub in West Reading, describes the videos as a chance to educate the public. Using his own body, he says, lets him show a "realistic" version of what such procedures can accomplish.
"There is so much misinformation about plastic surgery," Reedy said. "My goal is to present educational and accurate information to people about procedures that they might be curious to try."
The two-part DualSculpting stream, recorded in January, received just over a combined 50,000 hits, while the Botox video chalked up a little more than 4,000 viewers.
Doctors are increasingly turning to social media to educate patients and promote their work. Showing procedures online is particularly familiar in cosmetic procedures. A 2016 survey of 200 plastic surgeons by Emory University showed that about 64 percent of the doctors surveyed used online videos to keep up with advances, especially in nose jobs (rhinoplasty) and injectables to soften wrinkles and other skin imperfections, such as Botox.
Plenty of consumers research cosmetic procedures online at sites such as RealSelf.com, where users share their opinions of surgeons and their before and after photos. YouTube has been full of videos showing any procedure imaginable for years.
Reedy's decision to use himself as the patient, however, sets him apart.
But should Facebook be your first stop in searching for a plastic surgeon? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, patients should take a more cautious approach. The academy recommends investigating a doctor's credentials, particularly whether the doctor is board certified in the appropriate specialty such as plastic surgery or dermatology, how many cosmetic procedures a doctor has performed, what results can be expected, and how long the recuperation can be. Other questions worth asking include queries about risks vs. benefits, viewing before and after photos of previous patients, and total costs.
So far, Reedy and his staff have demonstrated DualSculpting – a process that nonsurgically eliminated both of his minimal "love handles" at one time – and Botox injections to relax his crow's feet and lines between his eyes. For the uninitiated, DualSculpting is a slight twist on CoolSculpting, in which fat cells are chilled to a solid state in a process more formally called cryolipolysis. From there, the body eliminates the damaged fat cells – which, as Reedy says on Facebook, "feel like a stick of butter" under the skin when the device is first used. (Before you get too excited, realize that this is only for contouring, not major weight loss.) As the name implies, DualSculpting simply uses two machines at once to save time. Prior to the screening, Reedy had had CoolSculpting performed on his abs, and he receives regular Botox injections.
On the live stream, Reedy, surrounded by a patient coordinator and medical assistants, addresses the camera directly, explaining what's about to happen, and what viewers should expect. The mood is informational but lighthearted. As his medical staff takes over, his patient coordinator fields questions from viewers, with topics ranging from the pain involved to the price tag for such cosmetic work, which is not covered by insurance.
Although Facebook viewers repeatedly requested pricing information, the answers that were posted were nonspecific. Reedy's office told a reporter that prices for DualSculpting starts at $1,500 and Botox at $260. RealSelf.com, which surveys prices nationwide, estimates total costs for the fat-removal procedure – which can take several sessions — can run as high as $4,200 with an average price of $2,300 depending on the surgeon, geographical location, and complexity of the procedure.
Reedy cheerfully admits that the Facebook stream is a way to promote his business, though his office couldn't say whether any of its patients came to the practice specifically because of the social media strategy.
"In this day and age, plastic surgery is recommended by word of mouth and reputation. It's certainly a way to grow the practice," he said.
It's also not uncommon for the medical staff in a plastic surgeon's office to perform procedures on one another, said Reedy, calling it "one of the perks."
While some may question the propriety of a doctor undergoing procedures for online demonstration, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons offered no objections.
According to Adam Ross, the integrated communications manager at ASPS, the society "is a strong advocate for patient safety and patient education. Ultimately any broadcast is at the discretion and consent of the facility, patient, and doctor. The society's utmost priority is that the material be conducted in a safe manner with accurate and respectful language."
Although Reedy hasn't posted any cosmetic surgeries online, it's something he says he might consider. Recently, the Australian Medical Association has sounded a warning about the ethics of such programming, as more plastic surgeons place graphic surgical feeds online, particularly on Snapchat.
Reedy sees no ethical issues raised by his tamer nonsurgical procedures, particularly because they are streamed live and in real time.
"It's not like some reality television programs where you have editing," he pointed out. "There, the results you get often aren't typical."
One thing he particularly likes about the Facebook Live platform is the intimacy.
"When a patient goes to choose a plastic surgeon, they have no idea what the surgeon is like," he said. "But everyone can see my personality on the internet. I definitely see this as the wave of the future."
By the numbers
Top 5 cosmetic surgical procedures in 2016
Liposuction (414,335 procedures)
Breast augmentation (310,444 procedures)
Tummy tuck (181,540 procedures)
Eyelid surgery (173,883 procedures)
Breast lift (161,412 procedures)
Top 5 nonsurgical cosmetic procedures in 2016
Botulinum toxin (4,597,886 procedures)
Hyaluronic acid (2,494,814 procedures)
Laser hair removal (1,035,783 procedures)
Photorejuvenation (657,172 procedures)
Chemical peel (616,225 procedures)
Source: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery