Boutique, high-end services may be perfect for your market.
There are many financially sound reasons for creating a medical spa (or “med spa”), either in your office or at a separate location. If you’ve been considering moving into this arena, understand the fundamentals of providing this type of service.
Fueled in part by growing interest in anti-aging and wellness medicine and the affluent baby boomer generation seeking to mitigate the effects of growing old, the med spa industry has burgeoned in the last five years.
So what exactly is this bold new form of healthcare? Generally, a med spa is a facility that combines traditional and holistic spa services with medically supervised treatments. The result is total immersion for the patient—an experience of relaxation and cosmetic enhancement that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Spa services typically include massage, aromatherapy, skin peels, facials, and other skincare procedures. Some spas also incorporate yoga and various forms of meditation. Large free-standing spas such as those found in resorts also have “wet areas” with steam baths, saunas, hot tubs, and Swedish showers.
Medical services vary by facility, but these often include Botox and skin fillers, laser hair-removal, laser skin-tightening, and some form of fat removal (e.g., with laser, cryo, or radio frequency therapy). Some med spas offer plastic surgery procedures such as liposuction, facelift, and breast lift augmentation or reduction. In the past several years many dermatologists and plastic surgeons as well as family doctors and gynecologists have expanded their practices to include med spa services.
Now you might be asking, “What does all of this have to do with my practice? I’m a chiropractor—a musculoskeletal specialist. I don’t know anything about skin peels.”
The answer is you can own a med spa without having any direct participation in patient care. Many med spas are owned by laypeople with no medical background or training. The key is to hire the best people to staff your operation and provide clinical services. When you consider that the average laser hair-removal treatment takes only a few minutes and nets about $385, you can see the potential of this type of practice.
As another example, consider Botox, the mainstay of med-spa treatments. The average cost of a Botox vial is $400. A vial contains 100 units, enough for four to five treatments. The average cost to the patient for the three most popular areas is $300 to $500 per area or $900 to $1,500 in total. Note these numbers are only rough estimates, as billable rates will vary over time and for different geographic regions.
How does a doctor incorporate these services into a practice? First, do your homework. Find out what the rules are in your state that govern the supervision of medical aesthetic services. Some services may require the direct oversight or performance of the service by a physician. Other states may allow indirect supervision or no physician oversight.
Then you have to decide what medical and spa services you want to provide and calculate the needed spatial and personnel requirements for providing them.
For spa services, it’s recommended to start with an aesthetician who will do facials and medical-grade chemical peels. This person will need a dedicated room for supplies and a treatment chair. In addition, the aesthetician may recommend and sell skincare products, and serve as an entry-level portal to the more expensive services you provide.
Another entry-level service is massage therapy. You typically won’t be able to offer some of the more exotic procedures like chocolate wraps, but a relaxing massage in a room that radiates tranquility will impart to your patients a calming spa experience.
A caution: You may be tempted to install wet areas such as saunas and whirlpools if you have the space. Think again. These are high-maintenance, high-liability areas best suited to large free-standing spas and a poor fit for a doctor’s office.
On the medical side, the idea is to first test the waters before buying or leasing the lasers you will need. Start with Botox and skin fillers. Then add laser hair-removal and skin-tightening services. If all is going well, then you can think about adding more complex laser therapies like tattoo removal or liposuction procedures.
One thing you won’t have to deal with is insurance. Med spa services are not normally covered by insurance, and you will offer these at point of service with a cash-based practice model.
With insurance reimbursements down (and still declining), and the complexity of billing and coding increasing, the med spa model offers an attractive alternative for many doctors. Do a little research and see if it is right for you.
Marc H. Sencer, MD, is the president of MDs for DCs, which provides intensive one-on-one training, medical staffing, and ongoing practice management support to chiropractic integrated practices. He can be reached at 800-916-1462 or through mdsfordcs.com.