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Leveraging green: In an industry in flux, staying down to earth still yields

Article-Leveraging green: In an industry in flux, staying down to earth still yields

Key iconKey Points

  • Despite the ever-increasing number of medspa service providers, the life expectancy of medspas is shortening
  • Experts suggest that a physician presence is both the most powerful, and underappreciated, tool in the medspa kit

As the growth of the medspa market attracts larger players, the industry's shakeout and the quest for efficiency will continue, experts tell Cosmetic Surgery Times . And though they expect medspas' appeal to cosmetic consumers — and some physician-entrepreneurs — to endure, the onward press and cost of technological innovation will likely cull the field even more. Through all the churning, however, many hold that a doctor's touch itself remains both the single most powerful — and underappreciated — tool in the medspa success kit.

Mr. Light
GROWING PAINS "The medical spa industry grew so fast. It's now suffering the pangs of adolescence," observes Eric Light, president, International Medical Spa Association (IMSA), a Union City, N.J.-based trade organization dedicated to "bringing together the healthcare and spa industries in a way that will ensure the quality of care available to consumers," according to its Web site. "The industry has been oversaturated, but that will self-correct," agrees Lauren Olson, P.A.-C., an owner and certified physician assistant at Radiance Advanced Skin and Body Care, The Woodlands, Tex. "I've already seen some of the franchise medspas declare bankruptcy. The cream will rise to the top." Thanks to the current U.S. economic climate and a lack of differentiation among medspas, Mr. Light says, "The industry is at a crossroads. Add to that the restrictive legislative initiatives that are going on, and it's a very troubling picture." Mr. Light estimates that seven to nine percent of the country's 2,000 to 2,500 medspas failed last year. "And the life expectancy of medical spas is shortening," he adds.

According to a recent IMSA study, 29 percent of participating medspas aren't making money. And half of those earning money earn profits of five percent or less, Mr. Light reveals.

Ms. Olson
Simultaneously, "There are very deep pockets looking to move into this space. It's not going to be dominated by individual mom-and-pop doctors offering just Botox," declares Jeff Barson, managing partner with Surface Medical Spas, which operates four locations in three states.

On the positive side, however, changing technology is providing economies of scale and efficient service delivery. "And the technologies are getting better," Mr. Barson says. "We have technologies that can produce outcomes that cannot be obtained in any other way."

Dr. Langsdon
But the drive for efficiency has a dark side, in the opinion of Phillip R. Langsdon, M.D., F.A.C.S., owner of the Memphis-based Langsdon Clinic. Physicians' success with Botox, fillers and lasers has attracted manufacturers seeking to sell costly equipment, and nonmedical personnel such as estheticians seeking to run it, he says. As a result, says Dr. Langsdon, "We're having people drive where the 'medical spa' is going, and they're doing that, in many cases, because of financial interests — not necessarily patients' interests."

In his view, some of the vendors' tactics have bordered on the heavy-handed. For example, in his practice, select sellers were trying to establish relationships with commissioned personnel in order to boost sales of their products.

"My concern is making patients happy," Dr. Langsdon states, "not helping a staff member or sales rep make a commission." So he canned the commissions and a satellite location so that he could oversee staff more closely.

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