Top Medical Aesthetic Trends for 2017 and Beyond

An industry insider highlights a number industry trends that conscientious medical aesthetics professionals should know about—for 2017 and beyond.

By Alex R. Thiersch, JD
 

At the beginning of this new year, it is important to not only reflect on the changes brought by 2016, but also look ahead to the future. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote about skating to where the puck is going to be rather than to where it is has been used so much by business leaders that it has become a cliché; however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice. Following are a number industry trends that conscientious medical aesthetics professionals should know about—for 2017 and beyond.

A More Complete Experience

Some medical aesthetic facilities have begun to transition from offering aesthetic treatments exclusively to promoting women’s health and wellness in general. People don’t simply go to these facilities for laser treatments and Botox anymore—they want full-body health. Treatments that are now being offered by medical aesthetic facilities include anti-aging treatments, hormone replacement, hair restoration, vitamin replacement, medically controlled weight loss, and even vaginal rejuvenation—one of the trendiest treatments available today. Rather than treating only surface-level issues, these modern medical aesthetic outlets are embracing a more complete solution, with the goal of helping patients to feel better, not just look better.

One of the more advanced treatments currently being offered by some medical aesthetic facilities is stem cell replacement therapy. For this procedure, stem cells are removed from a patient’s fat and then injected back into the patient, creating an anti-aging response in the areas that require attention. This is sometimes combined with the administration of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in a course of treatment designed to heal or rejuvenate problem areas of the skin. Some medical aesthetic facilities are seeing incredible results by experimenting with hybrid treatments such as this, and it is leading to an increase in revenue.

Expanding your menu makes sense from a business perspective, because it will theoretically make medical aesthetic facilities more enticing for new patients. However, it may also require the medical aesthetic facility’s employees to develop a greater variety of skills. This can cost a business time and money at first, although it may very well prove to be worth the trouble when the business is offering a larger number of profitable services.

Technological Advancements

Microneedling is one of the most popular treatments available at medical aesthetic practices, and some enterprising businesses are attempting to make a good thing even better by incorporating PRP into the procedure. This is possible due to advances in the technology that is available to medical aesthetic facilities, so it definitely pays to keep track of the new equipment that can be purchased and utilized in the industry.

As another example of this, many medical aesthetic facilities have begun offering body-sculpting services that incorporate lasers. In the past, the equipment necessary for such treatments would have been prohibitively expensive for medical spas and other aesthetic practices to afford, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Because of this, body-sculpting is becoming a much more common part of the medical aesthetic experience.

One of these new treatments is vaginal rejuvenation, which has become an incredibly popular service offered at some medical aesthetic facilities. Historically, this type of procedure, which improves the patient’s muscle tone and control, has been performed using traditional surgical tools and required a lengthy recovery period. However, the use of lasers has made it possible for medical aesthetic facilities to offer it as an outpatient procedure with a recovery period that measures in hours rather than weeks. Patient satisfaction for this procedure has been off the charts—like nothing the industry has ever seen. Therefore, it may be a benefit to your business to see if administering these treatments could be a fit for your medical aesthetic facility. Consult with a health care attorney to determine if you are ready to step into this market and to make sure that the staff members tasked with performing this treatment are legally able to do so. (Author’s note: The American Med Spa Association (AmSpa) works with a national law firm that focuses on medical aesthetic legalities and, as a member, along with a number of other great benefits, you receive a discount off of your initial consultation. To learn more, log on to www.americanmedspa.org.)

All the major laser companies have either developed or are currently developing both body-sculpting machines and vaginal rejuvenation equipment, either as separate modules or additions to their current platforms. There is going to be a great deal of competition in this area, and that will likely make this technology much more affordable than it was in the past. If you have an interest in adding body-sculpting and vaginal rejuvenation services to your menu, now is the time to investigate the economic and legal feasibility of doing so—your patients and your bottom line may well thank you.

Don’t Break the Chain

In 2017, the industry will likely see the growth of large chains of medical aesthetic practices that stretch across state lines. Medical spa chains were common in the mid-2000s, but the small business model has dominated the industry since the collapse of the real estate market in conjunction with the 2008 recession. However, this is changing in a big way. Entrepreneurs are devising aggressive plans that could change the look of the market, and the number of options that are going to pop up in the near future may surprise you.

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This may also lead to a different approach for the franchise model. Medical spas and medical aesthetic facilities have typically offered a wide variety of treatments and services under one roof—as mentioned before, many medical spas are actually expanding their menus—however, these chains will likely concentrate on specialization. For example, one chain might concentrate solely on body-sculpting, or laser hair removal, or hormone replacement. By doing this, these businesses are able to operate with less overhead than fully featured medical aesthetic facilities, and they can train employees much more easily. This is not a new business model, but its level of sophistication is going to improve, so competition is very likely to increase sooner rather than later. Given the sustained success of the medical aesthetics industry, it is not a surprise that more businesspeople want to become a part of it. Because of this, the level of competition that is likely to be created in the next couple of years will be unlike anything this market has seen before.

Regulation Ruling the Nation

The increase in regulation and enforcement by state and federal agencies is perhaps the most important trend for both the present and the future of the medical aesthetics industry. As previously stated, the industry has become very lucrative and, with that success has come much more scrutiny. Agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Occupational Health and Health Administration (OSHA)—not to mention state regulatory bodies—are taking a look at the industry and, in some cases, they don’t like what they’re finding.

For example, consider the case of microneedling, a very popular treatment that has become embroiled in controversy. Microneedling (also known as collagen induction therapy—CIT) is a skin treatment in which tiny needles penetrate the skin in order to create superficial wounds that stimulate the production of collagen and other growth factors. It safely produces visible results, and it has become popular with both patients and professionals because it is simple and fast.

However, there is some question as to whether or not microneedling is medical in nature. Generally, any treatment that breaks the outer layer of the patient’s skin is considered to be medical, but the needles used in these procedures are so short that they might not actually be penetrating the skin. Recently, however, regulatory bodies in California and Illinois have asserted that microneedling is an invasive procedure and thus medical in nature, regardless of depth. According to these agencies, unlicensed employees, such as aestheticians, are prohibited from administering this treatment, and an exam is always required prior to the procedure. This shows that regulators have their eyes on this issue and, as these two states go, so too likely will go much of the industry. Because of this, this former grey area is likely to quickly become much more black and white.

Additionally, the FDA has begun cracking down on the cheap, fake Botox that US medical aesthetic facilities purchase and import from foreign countries, most notably China. Although the operation is controversial within the agency, the fact remains that you could be looking at large fines and even jail time if you’re caught attempting to import non-FDA-approved medication into the country. This also means that if you attempt parallel importation—the purchase of legally acquired drugs from foreign countries, where the resale prices can be much lower than in the United States due to cost controls—you may be exposing yourself to legal action. This is despite the fact that the US Supreme Court has given the okay to the practice, since the FDA has not explicitly approved the drugs in question.

Also, due to the hybrid therapies discussed earlier, enforcement agencies are likely to begin paying closer attention to what’s actually going on inside medical aesthetic facilities. Treatments that incorporate PRP or stem cells are experimental in nature and, therefore, may draw scrutiny from state regulatory bodies. If you are offering them (or are considering doing so), be sure to consult with a healthcare attorney to confirm that you are using and advertising them in a legally acceptable way.

Elsewhere, OSHA has increased the size of the fines it can assess if it finds violations of its work safety regulations. A first offense can now cost you up to $12,500 (up from $7,500), and “willful and wanton” or repeated offenses can cost you up to $125,000. Fines this large can critically harm a small medical aesthetics practice, so consult a healthcare lawyer to make sure yours remains compliant.

Visions of the Future

The only thing that’s certain in life is change, so it’s important to keep an eye on the ways in which the medical aesthetics industry is evolving. You might not want to change your full-service medical spa to body-sculpting clinic just yet; however, it’s useful to understand why some people are choosing to do so. Nobody ever had too much information about their business, so it pays to consider the future.

Alex R. Thiersch, JD, is a Chicago healthcare attorney who represents medical spas, plastic surgeons, and aesthetic medical professionals. He is the founder and director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa), which was created for the express purpose of providing comprehensive, relevant, and timely legal and business resources for medical spas and medical aesthetic physicians throughout the United States. Thiersch is also a partner at ByrdAdatto Law Firm. For more information about becoming a member or to learn about AmSpa’s upcoming events, log on to www.americanmedspa.org. Alex can be contacted at alex@americanmedspa.org.

 

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About Practical Dermatology

Practical Dermatology is the monthly publication that provides coverage of medical care, cosmetic advancements, and practice management for clinicians in the field. With straight-forward, how-to advice from experts in various fields, we strive to enhance quality of care and improve the daily operation of dermatology practices.