Starting an Aesthetic Medical Practice

Man leading meeting with his medical spa team

1. Consulting & Location

Opening up an Aesthetic Medical Practice or medical spa is akin to starting your own business. You need to have a solid plan which will help determine your success. Within this plan, finances need to be in place, a business plan operational, and there should be a solid knowledge and foundation of the industry. It goes without saying that ensuring you have completed a Botox® certification program is also key to a successful aesthetic practice.

Before you take the plunge and start up on your own, there are some key factors that you need to know for the beginning phases of the operation.

Hire a Consultant

To some, this may seem like an unnecessary and costly expense, but it will be well worth it in the long run. The right consultant can bring experience, knowledge and advice to your operation that you might not have on your own. As mentioned before, opening a medical practice is like opening a small business, and you need to have the proper tools in place to ensure that you succeed.

A consultant can help you align these factors. They can help you identify your goals and develop a solid business plan to ensure your success. They will also help you align your priorities in terms of:

  • Finances, including start-up costs and budgeting
  • Regulatory issues for providing aesthetic procedures
  • Operating and medical malpractice insurance
  • Research, including choosing a location
  • Logistics of day to day operations, such as hiring staff, training, and developing policies and procedures
  • Marketing strategies
  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly business plan and checklist until opening day
  • Growth strategies
  • Human Resource best practices

Once you have hired and met with a consultant, you should have a solid idea around what you would like to see in your practice, and have confidence going forward.

Alternately, you can choose to go the DIY (Do It Yourself) route alone, or combine both DIY with medical spa consulting. Here you will attend a comprehensive physician educational program where you will learn not only the clinical skills needed to inject cosmetic injectables, but you will also learn all of the above.

Choose a Location

A consultant can assist you with this by providing research. It’s vital to understand the importance and value of selecting a location for your practice that is right for you and your clients. Try to do your research by investigating the area you’re looking to locate in, and ask questions such as:

  • Does the location have high visibility of cars and foot traffic? Is it located on or near a high traffic location where people will notice your practice? You don’t want to be located on a side street where no one ever will see you.
  • Is the location near to public transportation? Accessibility is key so your potential patrons can reach you
  • Is the exterior of the building that you have chosen clean and well lit? Is it well maintained and does it have a visible impact
  • Are you in a safe area of town where people frequently visit? If the area is clean and looks presentable, then those factors can influence your potential patients’ opinions of your practice
  • Are there other medical practices in close proximity to your new location? This may seem competitive at first, but it can actually be helpful as it will bring patrons through your door.
  • Is there public parking available for your patients? If there is no parking lot or if the street upon which your practice is located has no spots, it will make it difficult for patrons.

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2. Have a Suitable Reception Area Design

You want your reception area to make a positive first impression. Upon walking in, have soft music playing and ensure that design pallets are calm and serene so that your patients feel this way while they are waiting. Try to avoid aggressive colors, such as oranges and reds, which can induce anxiety levels. Next, ensure that there is ample seating, designed with function and privacy in mind. It’s a nice touch to surround the seating with greenery, such as plants or grasses (real or artificial). Even fresh cut flowers on the reception desk are a nice touch.  All of these design factors can help you to enrich the customer’s impression of your practice – for your one-time patients, but also for your returning patients who will spend some time in your waiting area at every visit. A poor design setup can contribute to your patient’s sense of anxiety, which in turn can impact their impression of the level of care that they are about to receive.

3. Engage and Entertain Your Patients

In an aesthetic practice, ensure that you are appealing to your niche audience. It is likely that the patron visiting your practice is concerned about health and beauty, and will be interested in such topics. Thus, ensure that you have ample information and literature around the office to help to sell your services. For example, if you are performing a weight loss treatment such as a Clean Start Weight Loss Program, why not advertise a cross-sell treatment such as laser hair removal? Or advertise your skincare services, if applicable.  Even further, have pamphlets, magazines and even a cycling TV ad system that informs and educates the patrons of the options and benefits of your services.

4. Cleanliness is Key

In aesthetic practices, your patient is being treated on an intimate level. Therefore, it is very important that they feel the environment in which they are being treated is clean and sanitary. Make sure that the exterior and interior of the building is clean and free of debris, as is the interior. Carpets should be clean and stain free, chairs should be made of materials that are not stained absorbing, and the waiting area should be neutral smelling but fresh. If you have windows and there are no cool drafts, it’s a nice touch to have one ajar so to let in some fresh air.

5. Hire the Right Receptionist

This is an often overlooked aspect of the physical design qualities of your practice, but so incredibly important. The receptionist is the first point of contact in your practice with your patrons. If you ensure that you hire a pleasant receptionist with a warm disposition, it can impact your patrons in a positive way. In order for your patrons to be return customers, having a positive experience with your reception can make or break their opinion of your practice and the services you offer. Further, if you have patrons that are feeling nervous about their treatments, a warm smile and a word of kindness from the right receptionist can help to alleviate any stress that your patient might feel.

6. Marketing for Success

Since independently operated medical practices are seeing rapid growth in urban areas, and are seen as a commodity, it is important to set yourself apart from your competitors. The best way to do this is to ensure that you have a comprehensive and Strategic practice marketing plan. This includes on-line media channels, television, print, and exceptional customer service.

First and foremost, it would be beneficial to consider hiring a marketing firm to help you achieve your marketing goals. A marketing firm will help you address your strategic goals for your business and will get you set up in the various marketing channels that will help to advertise your business.

Once you have done so, you should examine your approach to your marketing channels.

  • Internet Marketing: Ensure that you have a comprehensive and user-friendly website. It needs to be easy to operate and navigate, and you should consider employing a Search Engine Optimization method so that patients will find it when they search on-line. Ensure the website is informative, clear and concise. List all options and treatments that are available through your practice. Further, consider making it interactive, with options such as on-line appointment booking and record tracking for patients.
  • Consider creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account or vehicles such as LinkedIn for your business to connect with the powers of people using social media channels. Social Media posting is very important in a practice but it is very time-consuming therefore you will want to invest in a Social Media service to post to your platforms.  Outsourcing your Social Media Marketing will help with your practice engagement and is a great ROI.
  • Create a blog and/or newsletter for prospective clients to subscribe to so that they can be in the loop keep up with current events in your practice
  • Don’t be shy to ask your customers if they would like to share their experience at your Medical Practice with a testimonial that you can post on your website. Potential customers rely on customer testimonials in their decision of booking a consultation with your practice. Customers can also be encouraged to leave a testimonial on Local Listings pages such as Yellow Pages, Yelp, and so on.
  • Television and Print – In this day of cyber-dominated marketing, don’t underestimate the power of print and television advertising. If you’re just starting out and can’t afford to produce a commercial for your business, consider a public access cable station to show a short demonstration of your business. Further, create flyers and newsletters, advertise in your local papers, and post bulletins around the neighborhood. You could also create a banner or small billboard, or rent a mobile sign unit to advertise your practice.

Customer Service: How Word of Mouth is Still and Always Your Best Marketing Strategy

In a medical practice, as in any service-oriented business, how you treat your customers will ultimately dictate your success. It won’t matter how great your TV commercial is, how in-depth your website works, or how many flyers you print: if you don’t have good customer relations, you won’t see the success you’re hoping for.

On the other hand, if a client has an exceptional experience, their personal review of your business to their friends and family will be the best marketing that you could hope for. This is especially true in the medical aesthetic business. You are being trusted to perform personal and often intimate procedures on people, and your abilities and ethics will be under examination by your patients.

  • Go above and beyond for your clients: Learn their names, their families, and their interests. Show them that you are listening and that you care. Go that extra mile by doing things such as sending them a card on their birthday.
  • Know what services they are having done, and show a high degree of empathy and sensitivity to their concerns. Don’t be judgemental; rather, show concern for their wellbeing and put their minds at ease.
  • Address their concerns in a timely manner
  • Don’t be a victim to “poor bedside manner”-in other words, as stated above, be kind and respectable to your clients.

7. Hiring and Training the Right Staff

So far, in your journey to open your Medical Practice, you’ve established your location, your marketing, your client target market and your design elements – all important factors that will contribute to the success and longevity of your practice. This article examines the final and very important step to establishing a successful practice: Hiring and forming a solid employee base.

To run a successful practice you need to have keen and knowledgeable staff on board. Before you hire anyone, you should make a list of some key attributes that you are looking for. For example:

  • Determine essential staff requirements to get your practice started. This includes finding out about your State regulations for who can do what, for example, in some states, you need to be at least a nurse to inject Botox®.
  • Familiarize yourself with local employment standards requirements and typical pay rates. Hourly pay plus commission is common.
  • Determine which qualities you are looking for in an employee, ideally great clinical skills, combined with strong customer service skills, as well as soft skills like friendliness, adaptability, and an eagerness to learn.
  • Determine what kind of training or skill set your new hire should have, and if you’re wanting to train this person in-house or pay for any additional training that they might need (always contact your suppliers to provide this training).
  • Look for positive references in your potential hires. This person will be representing your practice, and will often be the first and last person that your clients deal with, so you want them to be a positive representation of your aesthetic medicine practice. Further, if this person is dealing with time-sensitive test results and intimate procedures, they need to be trustworthy and respectful of these issues. References should always be obtained from people that have supervised your potential hire in a similar position. Personal references from their friends or family members will not provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Once you have determined the key attributes you’re looking for in a potential hire, it’s time to reach out to these people.

A Methodical Approach

There are a lot of helpful resources on the internet that will help you get ready for posting jobs and the process from interviewing to signing a contract.

The first step will be to write out a job positing that clearly defines what you are offering and what you are looking for in a potential hire. Utilize word of mouth, local ads, and professional job search websites to advertise your job posting.

When it comes to interviewing your potentials, make sure that you go into this process well prepared. From evaluating resumes to structuring phone and in-person interviews, to making reference calls – it is essential that you get it right. You don’t want to miss out on a great potential hire because you were not prepared for your part of the hiring process. Consider contacting an HR consultant to assist you if needed.

Finally, when making your final decision in the hiring process, try to hire the best person that will be with you in the long term. Your patients will want to see familiar faces when they come for return visits, plus you certainly don’t want to train new staff over and over instead of focusing on your patients and growing your aesthetic practice. Especially at the beginning stages of your new practice, you need to have somebody on board that is experienced enough to run their part of the practice and understand the realities of a start-up.

Provide Essential Training

Make sure that you give your staff access to information and literature about the products and services that you are offering, as well as information about advances in the medical field that are pertinent to your practice.

By keeping them informed and giving them skills, they will provide great customer service and assist in the selling aspect of your medical spa.

It's an Investment in Your Practice

Ongoing feedback to your staff and continuing training and development will ensure that you will be able to retain your staff for the long haul. Having long-term staff to work with at your practice will not only make your patients happy but will also make it easier for you to run your medical spa. Having someone around you that is knowledgeable, competent, and supportive makes for a great work environment will be a great asset when it comes to hiring and training more staff once your practice is ready to expand, and will be motivating for you as well!

By hiring and training the right individuals, your practice will run smoothly, and you will be able to provide the customer service standards that will keep your clients coming back again and again, and your clients will refer your practice to their social network!

8. Position Your Medical Practice the Right Way

As in any business or industry, first impressions are lasting. The décor of a front window, the bright colors of an awning or the ease and availability of a website can ultimately determine whether or not that prospective client chooses you. The same goes for the positioning of your medical practice. Physical location, client accessibility, ease of on-line navigation and availability are all factors that can make or break your medical practice.

The first and most important factor in determining the right location for your practice is to do your research. Get out there and get to know the area that you are looking to open in. Questions to ask yourself about this location may include:

  • Is it a high traffic location? Does it get exposed to foot traffic, or is it near a corner where automobiles may be stopped at a light and will notice you?
  • Is the building bright, noticeable and well lit? Would someone simply walk past it without a second glance, or is it eye-catching?
  • Are there any other practices that are similar to yours nearby? Sometimes a saturation of the same industry in a small area can be detrimental; however, if you are only one of 2 or 3 practices in the area, you may be drawing potential clients in your door, as they are already visiting the existing practices in the area.
  • Are you in a clean and respectable area of town? Are the sidewalks clean of debris, the walls free of graffiti and is the crime relatively low (or not noticeable)? These are very important factors that can really affect the credibility of your business.
  • Is there ample parking available for your patients? You want to ensure that there is at least some parking for your patients, preferably directly in front of your practice. If your patients have to walk 5 blocks after paying for parking, you might lose their business to someone who has better proximity.
  • Are you serving your non-driving patrons by selecting a location that is near to public transit? If not, you may be excluding a large demographic of potential customers.

Once you have covered all these bases while choosing the location for your medical practice, it’s important to pay attention to some other physical aspects that will attract your practice to potential patients. This can include:

  • Clear and impactful signage outside of your location, either on a freestanding sign or featured as part of the actual building
  • Ease and accessibility for wheelchairs and motorized scooters
  • Ample lighting
  • Cleanliness of exterior, windows, and entrance-way

Bring in Patients

Use Google and Bing SEO to bring in patients. People use search engines to look up everything, whether it is a product they want or a service they require. A clinic’s potential patients are also Google and Bing Users and to get the attention of these users you need SEO marketing. SEO helps generate traffic and offers a high rate of conversion because the people who open your website by looking up SEO keywords are those who actually need your services. A practice can significantly benefit from using keywords targeted at the local audience and attract more patients to their clinic.

Once you have brought your patient in the door, help ease their worries of long waits and potential ailments by providing a calm and serene environment inside. Soothing music, soft lighting, and a warm greeting from a friendly receptionist can do wonders and make a wonderful first impression. Always ensure that the waiting room is tidy, smells clean and has new and well-kept literature (magazines, etc.) for the customers to read. Provide comfortable and practical furniture and lots of space for people to sit. Even further, if you are catering to families, it’s a very nice touch to have a children’s play area where the little ones can be entertained.

There are many factors and criteria to study when deciding on a location for your medical practice. Take the time to research the area and all the factors listed above to ensure you are making the best choice for your physical location. After all, your practice is viewed as a commodity that is offering a competitive service, and physical location will most definitely impact how people perceive you.

Now that you’ve decided on the perfect location for your medical practice, you need to decide how to appeal to your patrons once they walk in your door. You’ve managed to identify the importance of a high traffic location, complete with ease of access to transit, ample parking, in a well-lit area and in a reputable clean neighborhood.

Next, you must consider what will impact your patrons in the most positive way once they enter your establishment. Marketing your medical practice takes careful preparation. Consider these 3 important factors when it comes to the interior of your medical practice:

Reception Area Design

Reception areas, or waiting areas, are just as important for making a good impression as the exterior of the practice. Sometimes, medical offices can be a place that invokes stress and anxiety for patients. Therefore, it is important to provide a waiting area that is calm and serene, so that your patients feel this way while they are waiting.

Ways to achieve this include a relaxing paint and design palette of muted colors such as greens, blues and off-whites. Steer clear of aggressive colors, such as oranges and reds, which can often aggravate anxiety levels. Go even further and provide a musical soundtrack of relaxing spa or nature sounds to ease your patients’ tension. Provide ample and comfortable seating areas and ensure that the area is clean, smells fresh and doesn’t look cluttered.

Also, consider greenery in the form of plants or grasses (real or artificial) around the office, or even fresh cut flowers on the reception desk. All of these design qualities can really enhance the overall impression of your practice.

In reality, your patients may spend a lot of time in this waiting area. If it is not designed properly (cluttered, too loud, too colorful), it can increase unease and reduce the patient’s sense of security, which in turn can impact their impression of the level of care that they are about to receive.

Proper Signage and Communication

Waiting to see a doctor while you’re unwell or even waiting for an elective procedure that you’ve scheduled can be very hard. You’re uncomfortable, likely tired and hoping to get this over with as soon as possible. How can you make this easier for your patients? Simply put: communicate with them. Why not provide some informational signage that gets personal with your patients. Speak to your patient’s concerns with signage and don’t hesitate to display a small biography of the doctor, as well as any other useful information about the doctor.

Provide Activities for Your Waiting Patients – and Include All Age Groups and Preferences

It’s important to give your patients something useful to do while they’re waiting. If you can provide free Wi-Fi so that people can be connected while they’re waiting, you should.

Equally as important is to have a wide selection of new condition magazines on a variety of subjects (ensure that the magazines are not tattered and in disrepair, as it can contribute to an overall sense of disarray in the office). Provide a play area for children so that they can be entertained while waiting. Even further, why not equip your practice with a few televisions so people can have something to watch? You could consider subscribing to a program that loops information about health and wellness, or shows nature scenes and facts, so to invoke a feeling of calm and distraction while your patients are waiting. Don’t forget that men are also part of a profitable cosmetic practice.

There are many factors and criteria to study when deciding on a location for your medical practice. Take the time to research the area and all the factors listed above to ensure you are making the best choice for your physical location. After all, your practice is viewed as a commodity that is offering a competitive service, and physical location will most definitely impact how people perceive you.

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