Prohibition Aesthetics: How MedSpas and Non-Essential Practices are doing business during a shelter in place.

The Aesthetic Industry encompasses a diverse ecosystem of patients, providers, and entrepreneurs. With the implication of (Covid-19) affecting the closure of Medical Spas and Cosmetic Surgery Practices spanning through-out the world and now into the North East and West Coasts of the US, providers in more than a dozen states have entered "Shelter In Place" orders and strict "Essential Only" mandates putting their elective care facilities and our 50 billion-plus dollar industry at stake for the first time.

Most US physicians and med spa business owners have already implemented skeleton crews or rotating staff approaches to serve any confirmed treatment while moving to virtual methods for the monitoring of post-treatment care and new consults. Closures fueled further by industry key opinion leaders and board-certified physicians taking their national association (AAD, ASPS, ASLMS) recommendations to close elective care operating rooms and medical spas. Practice closure rates see uptick alongside the Covid-19 confirmed case count stimming regionally from published hotspots and outward, with generalized community advocacy that encourages all elective care facilities to do the same.

While during the onset of “social distancing,” many surgical practices saw a rise in scheduled operations, which would make sense from a patient point of view to, “take advantage of the downtime now and address an aesthetic make-over,” thus creating comfort and confidence in this uncertain time. However, at a rapid pace, this international pandemic has increasingly shaken the ability for these patients to receive procedures and for existing patients to maintain regular preventative treatments. The fact of the matter is that with (Covid-19) case volume on the rise and closure rates are at an all-time high, we as an industry are looking at inevitably fewer patients and fewer procedures performed. Per a RealSelf community survey recently conducted, 37% of consumers said it had made them “less likely to have a procedure” when asked,  “Has the COVID-19 virus impacted your thoughts about cosmetic procedures?”

This untimely pandemic has left hundreds of physicians and business owners unprepared with little contingency in place. Ultimately leaving thousands of nurse practitioners, laser technicians, and aestheticians subject to an uncertain future in medical aesthetics. So what can you do has a provider, practice, or med spa owner through the progression of growing Covid-19 confirmed cases in the US?

First and foremost, as an American Small Business Owner, Evaluate. Evaluate your business approach. Take advantage of downtimes during these lower patient volumes to step-back and modernizing patient outreach, business models, physical footprint, and technology. Those that survive will not only bear in mind the treatment of patients, IE “doctors being doctors,” but they will evaluate the effectiveness of doing so by reducing overhead expenses. Here are eight steps you can take to solidify the sustainability of your practice, med spa, future in aesthetics, and patient base;

1. Telemedicine, move all consults and follow-ups to virtual meetings between providers and patients. Continue to operate your on-boarding of new patients and the monitoring of post-treatment through tele-consults. Allowing an individualized approach to the consultation and treatment process while maintaining standardization, and thus allowing specialization of your best providers and or physicians directly interfacing with patients in compliance with social distancing. While telemedicine can be useful for patient inquire, on-boarding, and management to date there are very few Dermatologist and Surgeons that conduct telemedicine for the sheer fact that there is little a medical device, scalpel, or cannula can do through a smart-phone.

2. Concierge Medicine, Bring medicine to your patients. By accessing a mobile “go-bag” and travel-ready devices, you can maintain and realize revenue subject to loss over the coming weeks. Not an approach for every business, but those with the right structure, affluent client base, and for those in states that allow and do not regulate home care, this is a viable option to continued revenue. That said, it will be hard to bring the OR to the living room, so a focus on non-invasive treatment is key. 

3. Audience, Millennials are the fastest-growing segmentation of clients and patients in medical aesthetics. The growing generation “Y” demographics are defined by subscription economies proving to be great candidates for membership initiatives. They tend to have a “don’t have money but will spend” mentality toppled with a rising vanity. The consistency of the current core consumer base, baby-boomers, is being challenged not only because this demographic currently carries the highest risk in health, their spend at large is predicted it to change carrying a, “have money, but won’t spend in crisis” predisposition from recessions past. Even still engage your standing client base with email marketing and webinars on “at home tips” in vlog fashion while gearing your upcoming marketing initiatives toward the youth via digital strategies that have long defined industry leaders in platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

4. CutBacks, one of the “first to go” considerations implemented should be the release of dated or non-applicable treatment offerings, before that of a valued staff member that contributes to patient satisfaction and revenue. There are many federal and state to state programs that have been recently passed to support your small business. The qualifications are broad and, in most scenarios, can be eventual write-offs or even forgiven, reach your banking institution and tax advisors to learn more about what you can do to keep the people that count on you in place and safe in low to no revenue.

5. Technology and People treat them separately. In the spirit of keeping good people in the right roles, it has become crucial to hone core technologies and best-selling protocols. This will also assist in focused marketing to a directed audience. That means you should consider not only selling or trading obsolete equipment but becoming more cognizant of the cost to acquire new technology. While adding technology can still help in efficiency when considering multi-modality platforms vs. multiple devices throughout the office. Further an upgrade or exchange can impact efficacy, an essential factor in boasting results in a shortened timeline for the instant gratification seeking millennials. But do bear in mind the chips on the table and how every dollar spent today can drastically impact an already effected 2020 year-end net income. For those cash or loan strong considering new technology, be aggressive in your search for top-tier technology without a top-tier price tag. There are many tactics you can deploy in reducing the cost of new capital equipment, including certified pre-owned, profit share, and rental models. IF you’ve recently added or are considering adding new technology, it is crucial to understand the resale value that specific manufacture’s portfolio and specific model type.

6. Education, with a surge of digital meeting rooms becoming more interactive and prevalent during work from home protocols, there are a plethora of professional medical resources and industry vendors hosting webinars. With the cancelation of many industry-leading trade shows and exhibits, clinical leaders are taking to the web, as well as vendors who are increasingly ramping up continued education opportunities and CME course work. Take the downtime to sharpen a new skill with an online course to impact your leadership, management, or clinical protocol. The value you can find by tuning in is one comment from the next defining moment in your career path in aesthetics.

7. Giving, many are finding that any limited stockpiles of PPE (personal protective wear) are becoming required as a necessary aid for donation. Beyond supplies, a growing population of dermatologists, surgeons, and aesthetic providers are spanning back to their roots of not virology or epidemiology but their intimate understanding of transferal bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infection contracted via the dermis. This is an area in which you can practice the core principle of healing, a reason why you embarked on the industry of aesthetics. You can also impact the cause by being qualified not in ICU or ventilator management but by speaking to patients, calming fears, and educating solutions and outcomes. Universities are beginning the early release of medical students to join the hospital task force, and various multi-specialty physicians are now converting private practices into test facilities. Consider a donation, volunteer time, and subsidies that are allotted in the act of helping flatten the curve.

8. Patient Experience, planning for re-entry. Effectiveness as a leader is put to the test, and that begins with, driven by, and ends with creativity. Acknowledge opportunity and yield unique patient experiences both in and outside of your practice. Employing telemedicine consults is a start, but it is time to consider your waiting room and treatment room. What are you doing for in-practice marketing? Are you effectively cross-selling, up-selling, and converting patients? A quick google search matched with peer feedback will offer several app-based tech companies that now cater to streamlined patient engagement. This can include video streaming, hologram, and interactive before and after’s. Becoming effective in stimulating the vanity of millennial patient populations or getting regular patients to look up from their smart phone during wait times in decreased office frequency will never be more important.

The impact of Covid-19 on aesthetic medicine is unknown. Patient’s ability to receive procedures is in jeopardy along with their income, providers and physicians are learning a new way of business, and entrepreneur med spa owners have been infused with small interest band-aids. Undoubtedly we will see a steep decline and downsize in the enterprise of medical aesthetics. We all must take an in-depth look into our industry and reflect on the core purpose, which remains; redefining patient health, beauty, and confidence, the driving principle. Let us band together and create the practice of the future based on that principle.

-Stay ahead of the curve.

Austin JM Podowski

Austin JM Podowski

As Founder and CEO of Synergy MedSales, Austin directs market strategy, distribution, operations, M&A, and funding. After early exits from digital marketing, retail, and dental supply companies, Austin has spent the last decade in MedTech acting as a proven zip line of efficacious tech to the medical aesthetic and cosmetic surgery industry.

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