Medspa may not be best bet for expansion

September 1, 2007

Given consumers' desire to look younger-and the recent resultant increase in the number of medical spas, for example-it would appear that dermatologists looking to expand their practice have an instant, built-in business solution: growth via aesthetics.

National report - Given consumers' desire to look younger - and the recent resultant increase in the number of medspas - it might seem that dermatologists have a built-in business solution for expanding a practice: Adding aesthetics.

Or, maybe not.

"I thought what we now know as medical spas were a good idea a few years ago," says William Philip Werschler, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine and dermatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Wash.

So, what are the best strategies for expanding a practice?

According to healthcare-management veteran Kari Larson-McMurtrey, business manager at the Seattle office of Medical Hair Restoration, based in Maitland, Fla., there are three keys to expanding successfully - and it all starts from the top.

"First, a strong desire from the physician/owner to want to make a change in their practice is necessary; without physician leadership and direction, the changes that are part of growth would be difficult to make," Ms. Larson-McMurtrey says.

Choose a direction

The second step, she says, is to choose the direction and means of growth.

"It could be adding aesthetics; it could be adding a Mohs or path lab, or adding a physician extender, such as a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or, in some states, a registered nurse - or it could be a combination of these," she says.

"For example, in a single-physician practice, when the physician is already working plenty of hours seeing general derm patients, this practice might need a physician extender to see some of the general derm patients so the physician can start concentrating on aesthetics or skin cancer.

"Or, a physician might want to hire an aesthetician to help patients with skincare and begin to expand their practice in that manner."

Develop a growth plan

Third, she advises physicians to develop and implement a plan to initiate growth.

"This plan is also useful throughout the growth process to use as a reference point: What is the starting point, what is the goal, what is the plan of action to achieve the goal, and how much has been accomplished?" Ms. Larson-McMurtrey tells Dermatology Times.

"This plan should be broken down into small, manageable steps. If the plan is to expand into aesthetics, for example, bring in one or two cosmetic services at a time - do not try to become a huge medical spa with all the offerings overnight. Keeping the steps small allows for easier integration into the practice, and staff have an opportunity to learn about the new offerings and help promote them one by one."

Call in the SWOT team

But once a dermatologist makes the decision to expand, how does he or she decide the extent of that expansion, and what factors are involved in making that decision?