Do Your Research before Jumping on the Medi-Spa Bandwagon

by Ken Cassidy

Does adding a doctor's name to your spa make you a medical spa?

First, we need a definition of a medical spa. According to about.com: "A medical spa is a hybrid between a medical clinic and a day spa that operates under the supervision of medical doctor. Medical spas can treat conditions on your face and body like brown spots, redness, and broken capillaries that cannot be treated at all or as effectively by a traditional esthetician."

Many spa owners are overly impressed with the thought of bringing a doctor on board to offer medical services to their clientele. The truth is, no legal partnership is formed, spa owners are basically considered a landlord subleasing space to the doctor. The doctor becomes a tenant within the spa facilities. This is a business decision and must be treated as such.

Before offering the treatments that are common in a medical spa some questions should be asked of the medical provider. The medical spa treatments offered will be like laser treatments, laser hair removal, IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments, microdermabrasion, and photofacials.

Also offered will be injectables like Botox and other fillers, aggressive chemical peels and skin tightening or skin rejuvenation. Medical spas tend to have a more clinical atmosphere than regular day spas. Many also offer relaxing services like massage and body treatments. Some medical spas have a wellness focus and include services like acupuncture, nutritional counseling and naturopathic doctor consultations.

Ask who owns and operates the medical practice? Does a doctor own it? Are they actually on the premises supervising operations and doing treatments? Regulations vary from state to state. A medical doctor generally has to oversee the procedures performed in a medical spa, but this does not mean they are always (or ever) on the premises. Sometimes, doctors lend their names to medical spas but have relatively little involvement.

Who will be performing the procedure? What is the licensing and training of the people who are actually doing the services? How long have they been doing the particular procedure? This is especially important with laser hair removal. Many states do not require any license whatsoever and you can be badly burned -- literally -- if someone does not know what they are doing. Ask for "before and after" photos of their work.

What kind of equipment will be used? When did they buy it? Prices for medical spa treatments like laser and skin tightening (or skin rejuvenation) are high because the equipment itself is expensive. Research the type of equipment they use for the treatment you are interested in because it is a complex field and the technology is always changing. You really want the most up-to-date, least painful technologies for procedures like skin tightening. Again, it is all in the interview process.

What will this treatment realistically do for your clients? Sometimes, doctors and cosmetic surgeons open medical spas or want to be a part of a spa as an adjunct to their practice so they can offer more services. You may give more credence to a doctor's recommendations that you get microdermabrasion or laser treatments. Do not lose your critical judgment just because a doctor is recommending a treatment or wants to be a part of your business.

How many treatments will your clients need to see results? This is a hard question to answer. People respond differently and you may get good results from just one treatment or you may be unsatisfied after a series. Ask the doctor in the interviewing process what the general protocol is; how many treatments your clients may need; how frequently and what you need to do to maintain results. Ask what the doctor recommends in treating particular issues or symptoms.

Doing independent research is good because the medical spa or doctor will recommend the machines they have already purchased. It is important to know if it is the best choice for your spa business.

Once you have made your decision of who to bring into your business, the next step is to set up an Independent Medical Contractor Service Referral and Space Rent Agreement. This agreement will protect the salon or spa by defining the working term of two separate businesses under one roof, including the use of the subleased space.

Far too often, owners of salons or spas are carried away with the thought of a doctor being on board and they do not look at the relationship as a business deal. Doctors have different sets of guidelines and rules to abide by. Salon and spa owners are not familiar with these, especially HIPPA regulations. First, the spa business needs to be legally protected. Second, the spa needs to be profitable above the base rents being charged.

Ken Cassidy is a salon owner and president of Kassidy's Salon Management Consulting in Long Beach, California. For more information reach Ken at (562) 432- 4462, email him at kassidy122@earthlink.net or visit www.kassidys.com.

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