- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 19, 2000

Americans keep trying to become more beautiful, and more than 1 million plastic-surgery procedures were performed in 1999 alone, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Recognizing the huge potential for tummy tucks, breast augmentation, teeth whitening and myriad other body tuneups, one Web site has spent five years giving consumers advice that could cause a permanent change in the way they look at and feel about themselves.

Site address:

www.ienhance.com

Creator:

Dr. Eric Welling, an anesthesiologist from Salt Lake City, started the site in 1995.

Creator quotable:

"We want to empower the consumer to make informed choices and decisions about elective medical procedures by providing trusted, relevant content and decision-making tools. We assist health care specialists to profitably expand their practices by referring educated patients who are ready to undergo elective procedures," says Gene Erickson, president and chief executive officer.
"Patients and specialists can interact more proactively if the consumer understands the risks and expected outcomes prior to scheduling an appointment."

Word from the Webwise:

Touting itself as the first company to market plastic surgery on the Internet, IEnhance provides a "one-stop shop" for body-enhancement surgeries. The site offers lots of helpful information and a library of more than 7,000 "before and after" photos. Some photos are graphic, including nudity, so parents and the squeamish should be on the alert.
The site works with more than 1,200 physicians to allow consumers to select doctors based on informational articles and detailed procedural explanations that complement the specialists' background pages.
Note that the physician-referral area contains doctors who pay to become part of the site. From what I can tell, background checks of the doctors are minimal, but a page for each main section "Plastic Surgery," "Dermatology," "Cosmetic Dentistry" and "Vision" discusses at length how to confirm credentials.
Considering that any licensed physician can perform cosmetic surgery even if it is not his specialty anyone thinking about a cosmetic enhancement should take advantage of IEnhance's helpful investigative features. They include links and phone numbers to organizations such as the American Dental Association (www.ada.org); the American Board of Medical Specialists (www.abms.org); and SearchPointe.com, a service to check physicians' credentials.
One of my pet peeves with this site is the lack of attribution for its articles and information. The company spokeswoman says outside authors and physicians write the pieces, providing original content. I need more reasons to trust the data (such as biographies of the writers), especially because one of the site's objectives is to push business toward its stable of physicians.
Given that caveat, the site does a good job explaining surgeries it pulls no punches on potential complications and offering outside links to credible organizations to allow visitors to do more research.
The opening page features photos, tidbits and hard-hitting articles such as "Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy," but visitors should jump to the "Procedures" section to find drop-down menus leading to more than 30 procedures that range from tattoo removal to collagen treatment to laser skin resurfacing to hair transplants.
The person seeking to remove some fat from his midsection by liposuction can look to the abdomen menu for a complete briefing. Not only are potential candidates prepped with questions a doctor will ask them, but visitors can find explanations to common queries about average costs and the amount of pain, before and after photos, how to choose a physician and information about possible serious complications.
Once someone decides on a physician to perform the surgery, IEnhance offers financing options through an on-line application. Consumers can qualify for a loan in as short a time as 30 seconds with interest rates in the 15 percent range.
The other section of note, "Our Community," includes former patients who will share their experiences via e-mail; an ask-the-physician area; a message board; a glossary of terms; links to professional organizations; and stories from patients.

Ease of use:

Using speedy drop-down menus and plenty of links, IEnhance offers visitors an enjoyable navigation experience. The lack of large banner advertising also is appreciated. A nice addition to the "Plastic Surgery" area displays silhouettes of male and female bodies on which visitors can click to see enhancement possibilities.
I would have liked to have seen a site map with the entire list of procedures and photos.
Don't miss: IEnhance is in the process of adding animated snippets of procedures (such as Lasik eye surgery), which can be seen using Quicktime or Real Player plug-ins.

Overall grade: B

Remember: Information on the Internet is changing constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. For example, discuss the health sites with your physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (joseph@twtmail.com).

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