Ups & downs: As economy ebbs, top-notch service, noninvasive procedures keep derms afloat

September 1, 2008

While dermatologists offer mixed assessments of the impact of the sluggish U.S. economy on their specialty, they say today's tighter market clearly is intensifying the trend toward noninvasive procedures.

Key Points

EDITOR'S NOTE: Is the slowing economy affecting dermatology practices? Yes, doctors say - but to varying degrees. Some physicians say bookings for both medical and cosmetic procedures are down. Others say one area or the other has increased - although the emphasis has shifted. Market conditions are tighter in some regions of the country. But, overall, the demand for aesthetic procedures remains strong, according to a recent industry survey. And we've talked to experts who offer tips for surviving - and thriving - in tough economic times.

Overall, the slowdown is making itself felt - to some degree - for both medical and cosmetic practices, particularly in markets outside major metropolitan areas. But many dermatologists say the best defense is providing the highest-quality treatment.

In the latter area, "There's probably some decrease in demand. But it's not as if the demand has dried up," he says.

However, some practitioners - particularly in smaller markets - report a decline in demand for both aesthetic and medical procedures.

"There's clearly some trading down," says Joseph Sozio, M.D., principal at SkinCentre in Hartsdale, N.Y. Nationally, he says, "larger" procedures are on the decline, and smaller procedures are on the increase.

Tighter consumer credit also is pushing patients toward the fillers versus facelifts, he says.

But that's not the case across the board. Dr. Sozio says from January to June 2008, his filler, laser and Botox (botulinum toxin A, Allergan) procedures have posted single-digit revenue increases over 2007's first half.