Community by and for patients to share experiences and recommendations

Regulating the hair transplant profession/industry

8/12/2005 12:45:35 AM

Currently, as some hair transplant patients are painfully aware, there are no legal or organizational laws regulating the quality of hair restoration surgery. Essentially the “buyer beware” laws of the “free market” are the only real laws in place.

Thus a physician can literally set up a hair transplant practice over night and begin doing surgery the next day without having done any real training, let alone a fellowship.

But the emergence of the Internet has empowered patients to not only to learn about hair restoration but to share their actual experiences. Thus a physician who provides sub pare services one day may be reading a tough critique of his or her services the next day on our hair restoration discussion forum.

I think such a reality check is very healthy for hair transplant patients and physicians. It rewards clinics who do great work, while it warns patients away from those doing sub pare work.

As you might imagine, not all hair transplant physicians share our enthusiasm for such an open forum. Many would prefer the old paradigm in which the patient simply trusted them at their word, thus enabling some physicians to plug away doing standard or sub standard work.

But such blind trust ends at the first sight of a “corn row” hair transplant. The poor work that surgeons planted in rows years ago has grown up into a bumper crop of mistrust and skepticism.

Hair transplant physicians have only themselves and their profession to blame for the current mistrust. While their colleagues consistently performed sub pare work year after year, the vast majority of surgeons turned a blind eye.

The medical community and the government failed to properly regulate the hair restoration/profession. But patients have saved their own scalps and those of others by taking matters into their own hands online.

By sharing experiences and information patients have given each other the ultimate immunization against poor hair transplants – EDUCATION.

A truly educated patient is a Godsend to surgeons who do outstanding hair restoration surgery and a nightmare to those doing sub pare work.

What patient would choose a clinic providing small sessions of sparse mini micro grafts when they can choose to have extremely refined and dense sessions of microscopically prepared grafts? Hopefully none!

In a world of perfect information those plugging away would be unplugged, while the true gems in the rough, who often do little or no advertising, would be booked until they retired.

But for now there is enough ignorance, misleading advertising and laziness to keep mediocre hair transplantation in business.

I have been actively helping people use the Web to find outstanding surgeons on the Hair Transplant Network for almost 5 years now. It continues to be an up hill battle, with many hair restoration physicians working to undermine our efforts.

Over the years I have rejected dozens of surgeons who have applied to be recommended on this community. When they are rejected they often become upset and express anger that a "lay person" would dare to question their technique and credentials.

I generally remind them that it is the patient who ultimately makes the judgment on which technique and surgeon they will entrust with their scalp – not them.

A hair transplant physician who is not comfortable with good probing questions is not a physician you want probing into your head. A great physician will appreciate your questions and be glad that you actually can appreciate the extra effort they are making to assure that you get truly optimal results.

The sad truth is that I have attended more hair transplant workshops and conferences and seen more state of the art surgeries worldwide than most surgeons who are performing the actual surgery.

But I do see progress. I believe that the Web has created a new generation of very discerning patients who don’t rely on blind faith or slick advertising. Instead these patients compare notes with each other online and are not shy about questioning a potential surgeon’s technique and credentials. By demanding only the best, these patients are forcing surgeons to progress and provide truly outstanding surgical results or find other work.

I’m proud to play a role in this patient driven revolution. And I’m very encouraged every day that I see patients on our hair transplant discussion forum generously sharing their experiences and ideas.

Like democracy, it’s not a perfect process. But right now it does appear to be our best process for holding the hair restoration profession/industry accountable.

Pat Hennessey, Hair transplant patient and publisher of the Hair Transplant Network, the Hair Loss Learning Center and the Hair Restoration Network