Hospital hopes new app means gains in weight-loss surgeries

If only losing weight were as easy as the swipe of a finger.

Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas has rolled out a smartphone app that lets users “upload your own photo and gently swipe away the extra pounds from your body, receiving an instant preview of how a bariatric procedure can transform your physique,” management announced.

The online tool, which seems a likely target for cosmetic-surgery critics, is dubbed the “shaper.”

“It gives people the power to envision how they could look,” Desert Springs CEO Sam Kaufman said Monday in a news release, which added that Kaufman himself underwent gastric-sleeve weight-loss surgery in April and has lost more than 100 pounds.

“Undertaking a major surgery is a mental, emotional and physical commitment,” Kaufman said. “This is another tool to help you make that decision.”

The app’s development team included Christine Beltran, advertising director for Valley Health System, a local hospital network that includes Desert Springs; and Pixineers, a Canadian software company that makes “virtual plastic surgery imaging software.”

Although Desert Springs is owned by a national for-profit hospital chain, Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services, the app is specific to Desert Springs, hospital spokeswoman Gretchen Papez said.

Papez did not say how the hospital, which runs a weight-loss surgical center, would respond to possible criticism of the app.

Desert Springs is targeting customers in a lucrative, increasingly popular industry. U.S. doctors performed more than 10 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures last year, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. That’s up 250 percent from 1997, when the medical group started collecting the data.

The most common surgery last year was breast augmentation, at about 331,000 operations, followed by liposuction at 313,000.

All told, Americans spent almost $11 billion on cosmetic procedures last year, with $6.7 billion going toward surgery.