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Medspa success demands wide skill set: In a noisy marketplace, surgical talent is no substitute for business and marketing acumen


Dr. Gold
National report Running a successful medical spa requires painstaking attention to everything from building costs to branding and staffing issues, experts tell Cosmetic Surgery Times . Additional concerns include customer service, location and legal liability, they add.

The International Medical Spa Association (IMSA) defines a medical spa as "a facility that operates under the full-time, on-site supervision of a licensed health care professional," operating within its staff's scope of practice, and offering traditional, complementary and alternative health treatments in a spa-like setting. Including wellness centers, physician-run facilities and resort-based facilities, the number of medical spas has tripled since 2002, while annual sales have shot beyond $1.5 billion, says Eric Light, president of the IMSA's advisory board, and president and chief executive officer of the the Mainville, Ohio-based Strawberry Hill Group, a consultancy specializing in medical spas. However, sources say their proliferation has created confusion among both patients and physicians. For starters, doctors who plan to retire on medspa money are mistaken, says Michael H. Gold, M.D., medical director at Gold Skin Care Center, Advanced Aesthetics Medi Spa, The Laser and Rejuvenation Center, and the Tennessee Clinical Research Center, who also serves as clinical assistant professor, Division of Dermatology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and School of Nursing, Nashville. Rather, he says, "My medspa is a service to my patients, we do really good work, and it creates ways to get more clients" for treatments such as filler injections.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Most experts agree it helps to put one's medical spa where one's patients are.


Dr. D'Amico
"Ours is in a separate space that everybody has to walk by as they come in and out of our dermatology facility. There's a much better chance of survival that way than being a freestanding, far-away facility," says Dr. Gold.

Medical spa success requires "being on-site and being a good manager," adds Bruce E. Katz, M.D., director of Juva Skin & Laser Center in New York, clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and chairman of the medical advisory board for the Medical Spa Society, a not-for-profit organization that promotes professionalism throughout the medical spa industry. Having a spa near or inside one's medical practice allows one to check in regularly and make sure it's being run properly, he observes.

Conversely, off-site locations "can and will be done, but there's a much higher risk profile because of the greater financial resources needed," says Richard A. D'Amico, M.D., American


Dr. Saltz
Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) president-elect and co-chair of a joint ASPS/American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) medical spa task force. One physician who would agree with Dr. D'Amico's statement on financial risk for off-site medspa locations is Brooke Seckel, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon and assistant professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School, with a private practice in Boston. In addition to a successful nonsurgical spa within his plastic surgery practice, he says, "We also set up a satellite in the most elegant high-end spa in Boston. The new spa cost over $5 million," but the enterprise lost $54,000 in six months and provided no new surgical consults, he relates.

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