How to make the most of adding a spa to your practice

Patients today expect pampering and soothing care along with their facial and other surgical rejuvenations. Con-sequently, plastic surgeons are increasingly adding medical spa treatments to their practices. From reading articles in journals and magazines, listening to lectures at conferences, surfing Web sites, visiting facilities, and scouring ads in the local newspaper, you may already have an idea of how a medical spa would benefit your practice.

Once you have decided to add a medical spa to your practice, there are several steps you should take to establish and execute a plan.

Conceptualize

Select a theme consistent with your beliefs and philosophies as a physician. Clearly, the integrity that physicians bring to the medical-spa market is welcome and should be stressed.

You must establish a brand name. Select one that separates you from your competitors and stands out in the industry. Many centers have similar names, and this confuses patients. You don’t want them to call or walk into another facility because its name sounds the same as yours.

Once you decide on the name, display it throughout your facility for internal marketing purposes. Splash it on print ads, and announce it proudly on radio and television.

Analyze

Research the market. How are the most successful plastic surgeons in your area incorporating medical spas into their practices? If there are no medical spas in your area, look at adding technologies that complement current procedures, new procedures to expand the patient base, or even wellness therapies.

Explore the demographics—do you want to go toe-to-toe with your competitors or have a niche market to yourself? This research will take some time and effort, but it will put you ahead of the game. If you are too busy keeping up with your current business, you can enlist consultants to do the research. This applies to many of the efforts discussed in this article

Should you use your existing facility or build a new one? You may be able to move your medical spa into an existing facility faster, but you may have to revise your plans to accommodate it. The time and expense required to perform structural changes might be justified by the local demographics. Otherwise, a new building can be designed to suit your needs. Complete a market-feasibility and competition analysis for all options before you make your decision.

Survey your current patients to identify new services that would interest them and to determine whether a new or additional location would be more convenient. Are they al-ready obtaining these services elsewhere? If so, where? What are they paying? Are they satisfied? You will be surprised what you will learn by just asking.

It will be much easier and more economical to educate and motivate your current patients if you include them in the research phase. They can become enthusiastic publicity agents for the new medical spa because they will feel like part of the team.

Speaking of the team, don’t forget your staff. They can offer invaluable feedback and perspective on the benefits of adding a medical spa, which will provide a nice foundation on which to build. However, you will still need to have a marketing and advertising campaign in place once you are up and running smoothly.

Strategize

From the concept to the opening and beyond, a business plan is mandatory. This sounds elementary, but it is often overlooked. In the rush to catch up with this popular trend, you might be tempted to cut corners to open your first medical spa so that you can soon open more locations as soon as possible.

The plan is the core of your business, and it should be shared with all team members so that they understand the mission. Review and revise the business plan as your practice evolves. From designers and investors to attorneys and managers, it will serve as a reminder of why you are all in business together.

Once you have a business plan, it is time for an action plan.

Legalize

Hire an attorney for the project, or even enlist one as a partner in the business. Legal requirements and liabilities differ from state to state and can always change. When planning the business, consult with the attorney about who can use the equipment and perform the services. The last thing you want to do is to buy the equipment, recruit and train the staff, and make structural changes, only to discover that it is illegal to perform the procedure.

Medical compliance is an important component of the business plan and its evaluation by lending institutions. You may also want to protect your business with copyrights, trademarks, or patents.

Specialize

With all of the modalities that are available, technologies that complement your current procedures don’t have to be in the mainstream. Adding noninvasive cosmetic procedures and spa services as preoperative and postoperative treatments will provide better results for the patient, with less downtime. These services can be added as options to the cost of surgery. This requires a commitment from the patient, physician, and staff in terms of scheduling and follow-through. A home-care program can also be incorporated into the package.

The aesthetic results and profits from facial rejuvenation with injectibles and fillers are undeniably great. The same is true for laser and intense pulsed-light treatments, al­though the high cost of equipment is a consideration. But even adding these still ignores the “spa” component of the medical spa.

Aesthetic patients want to feel as great as they look, and this is the perfect reason to integrate spa services. Many wellness and therapy services can be incorporated that will complement the surgical and noninvasive procedures. When calculating the financial contribution of your medical spa, do not underestimate the role that spa services can play in supporting medical procedures and increasing repeat visits and patient loyalty.

Examples of spa services are lymphatic drainage, massage, and body wraps. These preoperative and postoperative treatments reduce postsurgical swelling and bruising by as much as 50%. Lymphatic drainage can be administered manually or mechanically, and it is normally performed as a series of treatments.

Breast massages and other treatments improve vascularization, produce better enhancement or reduction results, and lead to faster recoveries. Light therapy has been used in Europe for many years to accelerate external healing and internal scarring processes.

If you treat teenagers with procedures such as rhinoplasty, otoplasty, breast reduction, and gynecomastia reduction, you may want to add services targeted to this market. Acne treatments and facials, ultrasonic microdermabrasion, and extractions will set you apart from other medical spas.

Restrategize

Once you determine what may or may not be in compliance and how to finance the business, you may have to restrategize. Always have a plan for growth and for changes in the industry, whether that means technological advances, new laws, or economics. Business plans should be revisable, not written in stone.

Although the industry is currently fragmented, it will shift toward regionalization over the next few years. Franchises and turnkey operations are making small strides, but key players with the capital and resources to generate mergers will emerge. Be comfortable with this transformation, and become part of the leading edge in the spa industry.

Recognize

Realize that profitability is the key to offering new fee-based services, which can reduce the staff needed for paperwork and billing, but can increase the staff needed to perform the services. Patients want to feel good as well as look good, and plenty of therapeutic and wellness services can be incorporated. When calculating the financial contribution of your medical spa, never underestimate the role it plays in supporting your medical practice through referrals and superlative patient care.

Adding fitness or wellness components takes the practice in a new direction, and there is nothing wrong with that. However,  you will be adding staff, equipment, and space for the added services.

More plastic surgery patients than ever want to feel pampered and get away from sterile places associated with illness. The trend we are seeing in American aesthetic plastic surgery is starting to look like what is offered at spa and wellness centers in Europe. For many Americans, the idea is not so much to fix the damage from aging, but to prevent the damage from happening as long as possible.

Authorize

You have recognized the importance of staff selection, and you have successfully recruited and hired your “dream team.” Now, empower them to do their jobs. Together, you have developed manuals and protocols, and have a plan of action. Trust your staff to run the day-to-day business.

If you do not want to be encumbered by the everyday operations of the spa, choose a spa director very carefully. This person needs to be exceptionally strong in customer service and be talented enough to choose and develop the right team for your spa.

Customize

From branding to treatments, patients want to feel special and unique. Customize the robes, slippers, towels, and everything else that touches the client. Serve your own private-label teas. Have your brand etched into the water pitcher and the cups.

All treatment-center doors should have your logo on them, and each room should have a different name. Your brand should envelop your patients with warmth and care while they are in your facility.

Standardize

Protocols, protocols, protocols. They are as important as location in the real-estate business. Weekly meetings between the medical staff and spa staff are very important for the new business. Everyone should be cross-trained so that they know when to refer patients for additional services and treatments. A patient should not have to worry about which technician is going to perform her treatments, because the treatments will be the same regardless of who performs them.

Periodic reviews are recommended. The surgeon should be familiar with the noninvasive aesthetic services to prescribe—such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and ultrasonic cleansing—that will increase the benefits of surgery.

Synchronize

Formulate a comprehensive approach to caring for the client before, during, and after surgical procedures. Patient evaluations and appointments with the surgeon should be the first step in the medical-spa process. This ensures that the physician is in charge and will be overseeing the facility and patients.

Someone in the office should know where the patient is at all times and know when to retrieve her from the lounge to go to the consultation room, to the relaxation room, to the locker room, to the treatment room—and back again, eventually to the final consultation room and then on to checkout. Do not let the guest wander the hall alone.

Socialize

Host monthly events, and invite anyone who would benefit from knowing more about your business. Even if only a small number of people attend, this is a great marketing tool. Make sure to give those who do attend a thank-you gift. It might be a gift bag with your logo that includes a gift certificate for an add-on service, samples from vendors, newsletters, menus, and a business card.

Tranquilize

Establish a calming and relaxing atmosphere to lessen anxiety. From the sound of water in a fountain to soothing colors and furnishings throughout the facility, the patient should be encouraged to feel comfortable and at ease. Studies show that a warm, inviting ambiance can actually lower the perception of pain or discomfort.

Energize

Keep the staff smiling, motivated, and on their toes. Look for a positive attitude when screening candidates for your staff. Education and training are important employee attributes, but attitude and energy are vital.

The new generation of patients is unimpressed by medical “authority” and demands service and courtesy. When they do not get it, they simply stop coming—which is an important consideration for those who are thinking about opening medical spas and will depend on the results for their economic success.

Summarize

Your treatment menu is the core document for your patients. Place your mission statement on it, and restrict it to a summary of treatments and services.

The consultation with the physician or a staff member is the time to go into detail on specific procedures that address the patient’s concerns. A personalized packet can be created during this meeting, along with a plan for and schedule of treatments. A sequence of procedures and services, along with home-care suggestions, will manage the patient’s expectations and make her comfortable with the medical-spa experience. PSP

Lisa Travis partners with physicians nationwide to establish or expand medical-spa facilities. Her projects include conception, space planning, branding, equipment selection, staff recruitment, and training. She also develops skin-care lines, customizes service menus, and designs private-label product lines for physicians. She can be reached at (615) 400-6174 or ltstyle@msn.com.