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Why is a consultation necessary for medical aesthetics?

As of March 7th 2024, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of Australia implemented widespread changes that will limit most discussion about medical aesthetics on social media and most settings outside of a consultation with your doctor or healthcare professional (HCP).

The ability to simply order treatment with prescription medications on demand over the last few years, often via barely qualified HCPs is resulting in the commoditisation of medicine and prescription medications, which carry far more side effects than over-the-counter (OTC) medications, with higher risks.

This has led to increased risk and poor outcomes on occasion, in untrained hands.

As such, long after it was due, the TGA is aiming to return this aspect of medical care back where it belongs, between a patient and their HCP, but I anticipate we will get a lot of pushback.

So why is a consultation necessary for medical aesthetics, if you know what you want?

Like any other concern, all consultations begin with a comprehensive consultation between you and your doctor to determine what your concern is. Even if you’ve googled the issue and believe you know what is wrong, your doctor has an obligation to exclude any other possibilities that may be the cause of your condition and to satisfy themselves that the treatment you request is not only the best option for you, but also something they can safely provide for you. Equally, they need to be certain that there are no reasons you should NOT have that particular drug/ medication.

All this takes time and is far more than the cursory 30 second consultations often taking place up until now, whereby we exclude pregnancy, ensure you are 18 and make sure you have no significant medical illness. It’s also more than the 20 second video call with a doctor you’ll never see again, who nods and signs off on the drugs another HCP administers if you choose that model of care.

By law, what is required, as stated above, is a list:

  • your concerns
  • if your doctor can help you with those
  • how much they bother you and whether you’ve had any treatment for them to date
  • any vulnerability you may have
  • if you have any reason you may not be a suitable candidate for medical aesthetics eg a history of being underage, pregnant but also having anxiety, or a history of going from injector to injector and still being dissatisfied with the results or being overfilled.

If you and your doctor determine you are a good candidate, there is still more to cover:

  • what is possible given your concerns, your genetics, age and budget
  • the timeframe if it is a time sensitive concern eg aging
  • whether you have the budget for it without too much hardship
  • whether you are able to stick to the treatment plan as agreed to between you and your doctor
  • if you feel safe and comfortable with your doctor

All the steps above take time, well above a half hour, and cannot be rushed.

At Skin Essentials, if we cannot tick all of those boxes, I tend to suggest a patient goes away to think, and mull her options and to return if/ when that changes and she feels ready to proceed.

Medical aesthetics is entirely optional and a want, even if it can feel like a need. It is still medical procedures that are entirely optional and as such, the stakes are much higher to get the results you want, or to wait until you are ready and able to commit.

All of this requires clear, upfront communication about costs, timeframe and expectations - for you of your doctor and for your doctor of you.

This is what the TGA is hoping for to limit the tide of poor work and vulnerable people being taken advantage of at present.

In no other area of medicine would you be able to simply show up to an appointment and order a treatment with a bare minimum of consult or relationship with your doctor. So it is with medical aesthetics, a specialty in its own right with rare but real risks.


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