10 Steps to Developing a Successful Medical Spa

As medical spas move from being a trend to becoming a staple in the industry, many doctors and spa professionals are partnering to create their own unique, profitable businesses. During the development of a spa project, your money and time need to be managed efficiently. Even the seemingly smallest of errors can cause major financial setbacks if not implemented correctly from the beginning. However, when strategically executed, a medical spa can lead to satisfied patients and huge financial gains. Here are 10 steps for developing a medical spa and common mistakes to avoid.


Don't try to be everything to everybody. Decide what you will specialize in, then do it well. For example, Cultura Dermatology and Laser Center (Washington, D.C.) focuses on treating ethnic skin, and Spa on the Green (Longmeadow, MA) focuses on organic skincare products and treatments to enhance plastic surgery. On the flip side, a common mistake is not offering enough or offering too little related to your practice. There is a fine line between being a medical spa and just sharing an office space. Prior to joining with another practitioner, you need to ask yourself a few questions: How does this practitioner complement your practice? How can you package your services with these treatments? How are these treatments going to help enhance your practice? Your ultimate goal is to secure a solid concept that complements your business, does not compromise your integrity, and will generate revenue.


Whether you are financing the project yourself or looking for investors, you need to write a business plan. It is what all potential investors need to review before deciding if they are interested in investing their money in your venture. Even if you're not looking for investors, it puts everyone who reads the plan on the same page. Your architect and designer will review this plan and get a visual image of your goal; your consultant will read it and understand how to program and market your project; your spa manager will review it and know whom he or she needs to hire and how to lead them. A business plan also acts as a source to refer to during development to keep you on target and, upon opening, it serves as a monthly revenue target for which to strive.


The build-out is the most expensive, time-consuming part of your project and usually the area in which you know least. The people on your development team are extremely important. Even the most clever of concepts can backfire if the facility is designed incorrectly. For example, combining the services of an oncologist and plastic surgeon in a serene spa surrounding is a fantastic idea to help a suffering breast cancer patient who has recently had a mastectomy. Under one roof she can have her reconstructive surgery, energy work, scar management, and even be fitted for a wig. However, this scenario drastically changes if she has to walk through the main lobby to get to the location where she tries on wigs or if she has to undress in a locker room that doesn't have the privacy she needs during this difficult time. With a strong development team on board, you can foresee these problems and, in advance, create a separate entrance or patient-specific waiting room. An experienced development team builds a facility that enhances your concept, not spoils it.


A doctor's office is considered a destination. It does not rely on being in the hippest area of town—patients will travel to see a doctor. A day spa is different, as its success relies on location. As a combination of the two, where do you go? A market feasibility and competition analysis is recommended prior to choosing a location. Many factors affect the selection of your location depending on your concept, such as demographics, parking availability, street frontage, and zoning. Make sure that your city or town's zoning laws allow for a medical spa. Medical spas are a relatively new business concept and many zoning boards do not understand what a medical spa is, so you may have difficulty getting zoning issues settled. A good way to avoid the hassle is to collect zoning data from other existing medical spas.


Your doctor's support of all spa services and products is crucial to your medical spa's success. The difficulty lies in creating a menu of services that does not compromise your doctor's integrity and yet is still a marketable product. Doctors often feel divided with regard to the benefits of certain spa services. When selecting a skincare range for your spa, one option may be purchasing an existing spa skincare line that has been proven effective. There are also many pharmaceutical companies that have expanded their ranges to suit the medical spa industry. Working with a pharmaceutical range gives you flexibility when designing your menu, allowing you to create treatments specific to your vision, which helps bring spa and office together.


The main goal of a medical spa is to create a welcoming environment. Your staff cannot focus on patient care or selling services and products when the operation is not a well-oiled machine. The merging of form and function begins at the foundation. The most important step of your entire project is having your business systems in place prior to your staff coming on board. On average, 75 percent of complaints in a spa setting relate to what happens outside the spa rooms. If you do not have policies and procedures in place, your staff will quickly take advantage of you, your spa's reputation will nose-dive, and your business will not produce its potential income.



The backbone of a medical spa is seamlessly merging of the doctor's office and the spa. This comes from programming and communication. There are several approaches you can take to integrate your operation. One way is to create a panel of experts to include both doctors and spa practitioners. The diagnosis of the client is discussed with the panel to create a comprehensive treatment program. Another method is to consult with each client individually, allowing not only time to discuss what he or she wants to achieve, but also educating him or her about medical services offered. A third approach, and one that is more specific to a spa that is cosmetically driven, is to allow the client to decide which services are appropriate for his or her needs.


In a medical spa, all practices and therapies are offered under one roof. Whether acting as a separate entity or creating a panel to treat clients, everyone needs to protect themselves. Similar to medical coverage, you are still going to need the basics of protection, which are malpractice, general liability, and property coverage. You need to see a licensed insurance agent to create a plan specific for your facility. Regulations differ from state to state, and each facility has its own individual needs, so it is important to research which insurance will best fit your particular needs.


The most successful medical spas are staffed with professionals who have prior experience in a medical setting as well as talent in offering a healing touch, such as estheticians with continued education certifications, dermatologists' assistants, and registered nurses. Keep in mind, this is a high-turnover industry. In conjunction with treating your staff fairly, with respect, and creating an environment that is positive and friendly, there are other ways to retain your staff, such as continued learning and fair compensation.


Many doctors have a mentality like the old Charlie Brown cartoon where Lucy walks over to her booth, flips the sign over that says "the doctor is in" and waits for patients to miraculously arrive. A medical spa is not a doctor's office. A forward-thinking marketing plan takes a proactive approach to creating client traffic. Unlike other small businesses, you own the greatest tool for marketing—a list of spa clients' names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. The three steps to marketing spa services are communication, follow-up, and commitment. Using your mailing list, communicate with your clients by sending out postcards informing them of upcoming promotions and events. Follow up with a phone call to secure a visit. Keep walk-ins and passers-by aware of your promotions and events through in-house signage and flyers.

Once developed correctly, a medical spa is a rewarding and lucrative business. By keeping your mind open and your focus on client care, spa services may become a standard addition to many more medical environments of the future.

About the Author: Alexis Ufland is the owner of Lexi Design, a spa consulting firm in New York City. She has written numerous articles on spa and fitness development, has been quoted in industry trade magazines, and has lectured at national trade events. She is also a member of the Medical Spa Society. Ufland can be reached at [email protected].



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