Advice to spa owners: Don't lose sight of primary business

August 1, 2005

Sometimes success with a medspa requires more than simply knowing what to do. Knowing what not to do is equally helpful in determining successful outcomes.

"Medspas can also be a good way to run your entire practice into bankruptcy,"says Greg Washington, president and CEO of Patients Unlimited Marketing Consultants, a California-based marketing and advertising agency specializing in the promotion of aesthetic and cosmetic services.

Sometimes success with a medspa requires more than simply knowing what to do. Knowing what not to do is equally helpful in determining successful outcomes. With this idea in mind, practices with medspas make four common but critical mistakes that lead them to under-perform, according to Mr. Washington. The key idea underlying these mistakes is allowing your medspa to become something that it is not.

Misunderstanding what a medspa is and is not is perhaps the most common error made by physicians wanting to add a medspa to their existing practice.

"While it is possible and necessary to incorporate some of the features of a day spa into the medspa, the medspa should not be allowed to become a day spa, and doctors should know the difference between the two of them as they consider adding one to their practice," Mr. Washington tells Dermatology Times.

To be clear, medspas are facilities that operate under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.

Medspas generally provide spa-like services that are true extensions of medical procedures that require injections, skin ablations and body modifications of a medical nature. These procedures are complementary and alternative health practices and treatments provided in a spa-like setting.

According to Mr. Washington, Medspas providing significant levels of day spa services are courting business responsibilities and problems that most cosmetic practices are not set up to handle. "These activities have proven to be serious distractions from the major objective of increasing revenue from major procedures," Mr. Washington adds.

Know what you want

A suggestion he gives to his clients considering adding a medspa is for them to write down exactly what they want from their medspa. If what they want significantly extends beyond increased use of major medical procedures, he often advises that the doctors examine restructuring the practice with the aid of a day spa specialist.

Don't be a follower

Once medspa services are initiated in a practice, it is often difficult, especially if the money is coming in, not to provide all the services your patients request.

"A patient asked a client of mine why she couldn't get her hair and nails done along with her peel," Mr. Washington recalls.

When enough clients began to ask, the doctor was tempted to extend his set of services in order to meet this market need. He did and soon found his practice in deep financial trouble.

"We were all raised on the idea that the customer is always right, but they are not always right for a particular practice," Mr. Washington says.

Control personnel

Sometimes pressure to expand the scope of a medspa comes from within the practice.

"Keeping the interests of the practice and the interests of employees clear and distinct is hard for many doctors," Mr. Washington says.

"Medspa personnel often push for more services by claiming that offering these services can and will help with the acquisition of additional major procedures," he says.

Mr. Washington says personnel should not - no matter how well-meaning or well-established they may be - decide the scope of services for the medspa.

"Listen to your employees," he says. "Value their suggestions. But in the end, make the final decision on the direction of your medspa based on the needs of the core practice and established scope of services. Adhere to the practice's core competencies."

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