Build practice revenues through physician-dispensed product sales

December 1, 2006

Inventory management can be a challenge. First and foremost, it's critical to work within your cost analysis and projections to purchase the amount of product that you can physically store and sell.

What does the growth of cosmeceuticals - and specifically physician-dispensed, scientifically based skincare - mean to your practice?

The potential for increased patient loyalty and revenue. In fact, based on my experience and that of the physicians I've spoken to, the sale of nonprescription physician-dispensed skincare products can add as much as $100,000 to $200,000 to practice revenue each year.

Where to begin?

The first thing I recommend to any physician planning to sell skincare products is to personally try every product you plan to sell. Use the products - touch and smell them - so that you can relate to what your patients will experience. Also ask for help from other trusted "testers" including your staff and long-term patients. I also recommend asking fellow dermatologists about new products they've recently tried.

Dollars and sense

It is generally a good idea in the beginning to stick to one or two product lines. Make sure you have all of the key components your patients will need: facial cleansers, sunblocks and antioxidants.

Once you've chosen the products you plan to sell, develop a cost analysis and project in advance your profit goals. On average, most physicians sell products for twice what they paid for them.

Remember that you want to remain competitive within the marketplace, so do your research before setting prices.

Inventory management can be a challenge. First and foremost, it's critical to work within your cost analysis and projections to purchase the amount of product that you can physically store and sell. I've found it's best to train your office manager to understand the cost analysis so that she or he can order products on a timely basis; if you are frequently out of products, patients will lose interest.

One other important note: anticipate some product returns. I've made it a practice to only deal with companies that stand behind their products, which allows me to take back almost all returns.

Front line

Your staff can be your best asset or your weakest link when it comes to marketing and selling cosmeceuticals. Encourage your staff to test the products.

Certain companies recognize their role in product sales and will enable their personal product trials. Allergan, for example, offers a staff appreciation package for M.D. Forte, their glycolic acid line, which allows staff to order products free of charge at select times throughout the year. In addition to the product, make sure to provide your staff with the information they'll need to become knowledgeable about the science behind the products and their active ingredients.

Put a responsible staff member in charge of maintaining your product inventory and keep the product closet clean, organized, well lit and locked.

Face it

Once all the pieces are in place, it's time to begin selling the products.

You'll want to start your patients with a facial regimen that includes the essential core products: facial wash, sunblock and an antioxidant.

When discussing the facial regimen, highlight the value of physician-dispensed products. Explain that physicians can sell more concentrated and effective products. One example I like to use is Prevage MD (Allergan), an anti-aging treatment that contains the highest concentration (1 percent) of the antioxidant idebenone. Many of my patients have seen the Prevage name at retail stores, but most are not aware that this version contains half the concentration of idebenone, the key ingredient in the product. I underscore that they can save time and money by purchasing physician-strength skincare products.