Medical Spa &
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What are Essential
Is All the Hype True?
Inside the Medical Spa Association: An Interview With Executive Director
Hannelore R. Leavy
A medical spa or medspa is a spa-like facility offering non-invasive
cosmetic medical skin care treatments; it is the ultimate marriage of
luxury and clinical efficacy. MedSpas are the medical environment of
the future, experiencing the highest growth rate within the multi-billion
dollar spa industry.
Spa Today (ST): How would you define "Medical Spa,"
as opposed to simply "Spa," and what does the Medical
Spa Association hope to accomplish specifically in
merging the two concepts?
The two concepts are separate, but nevertheless related.
Many treatments applied in a medical spa are also done
in a day spa, and do not require the presence of a
Business concerns are similar as well, although a medical spa will
require a different marketing approach and networking venue. These
and many other components of a medical spa do not apply to a regular
day spa; as such, the formation of the MSA was essential to provide the
medical spa industry with an official body that addresses those needs,
and a voice to represent that segment of the industry.
The Medical Spa Association defines a medical spa as a facility whose
medical program is run under the strict supervision of a licensed health-
care professional. Services are provided that integrate both traditional
and nontraditional medicine and spa treatments.
The Medical Spa Association and its founding members have identified
four very different types of medical spas:
a facility owned by an individual or
corporate entity with an office/treatment area of a
licensed health care professional located on the
premises. Included in the services are medically based
consultations and treatments provided by the licensed
health care professional or a medically trained
aesthetician and therapists.
Therapeutic: a facility owned by an individual or
corporate entity with an office/treatment area of a
licensed health care professional located on the
premises. The offered services include therapeutic
modalities that focus on specific medical issues,
such as cardiovascular disease and bariatrics.
Medical Centers/Hospital-Based: facilities that
offer an advanced level of diagnostic services,
employing conventional and complementary
therapies delivered in a specially designed
healing environment. Services include both
Eastern and Western techniques of evaluation
and treatment, integrated with a variety of spa
Wellness Centers: owned by physicians or
entrepreneurs - and encompassing many of the same
services as the medical/hospital facilities if physician-
owned. If privately owned, facilities will have a licensed
health care professional as the medical director.
Industry participants feel strongly that the
medical spa market is
booming. Is it?
The Medical Spa & Specialty Hospital Markets report uses interview,
literature, and survey information to answer that question.
Canadian medical spa development is definitely in high gear,according
to research that was conducted in a January 2004 for this report.
Various facilities provide consumers with high-end anti-aging skin care
consultations and treatments such as Botox injections, microderma-
brasion, laser hair removal, etc.
Cosmetic surgeons continue to dominate the market, but other medical
professionals and venues are expanding consumer options. Dentists
make up one new segment of practitioners, while medical spas and
specialty hospitals represent environments where clinical expertise is
combined with a comprehensive mix of personalized services. In the
Medical Spa & Specialty Hospital Markets report, the role of these
facilities is analyzed, based on initial research conducted in 2002 and
follow-up information gathered in mid-2003.
How did this project get started? What was the "birthing point," i.e., why
the need for a Medical Spa Association in affiliation with the Day Spa
Association? And why the need to distinguish/qualify "medical spa"
The original concept of a day spa was intended as an extension of a
destination spa, i.e., with emphasis on health, rejuvenation, relaxation
and lifestyle changes - in other words, continuing the healthy lifestyle
one started on while at a spa vacation, combined with serious skin care.
However, in the past six or seven years, the day spa concept has
become that of an extended full-service salon and/or skin-care salon,
with the emphasis more on beauty and pampering than on therapy,
prevention, health, etc.
Adapting to this trend, more serious spas that do want to get away from
this "pampering" image are now partnering with the medical community.
I realized that there is a need for a separate body to help them in this
quest. That is one of the reasons the Day Spa Association, as early as
1994, set guidelines, Essences of a Day Spa, to educate people on the
different types of day spas available to them. We did implement an
accreditation program according to these guidelines, and we are
planning something similar within the medical spa industry. The spa
industry also has to realize that the medical community (particularly
plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, cosmetic dentists, chiropractors,
and homeopathic and CAM practitioners) are starting to get quite
interested in the spa concept, although many physicians are merely
interested in tapping into this lucrative market: non-HMO-related
treatments patients/clients are willing to pay cash for, require little
paperwork and produce satisfied consumers. (Dealing with the healthy,
vibrant and "forever" young-staying public is also a much more
pleasant prospect, rather than dealing with the "sick.") The medical
spas are part of this trend. Marketing trends that started with the Baby
Boomers, including the evolution of the day spas and anti-aging
treatments, have crossed over to the medical community.
Types of Health Spas
A facility that offers various professionally administered spa services
on day-use basis. Services include various spa treatments for beauty,
wellness and relaxation.
A facility that offers overnight lodgings and programmes that can last
from two or more days. On-site health and wellness programs and
therapies include exercise, body treatments, stress-relief activities and
health food to give patrons substantially beneficial lifestyle changes.
Provides guests with lifestyle improvement and health enhancement
through professionally administered spa services, physical fitness,
educational programming and on-site accommodations. Spa cuisine is
Offers optional therapeutic approaches and nutrition to reach a higher
level of well-being in mind and body.
Individuals, solo practices, groups and institutions comprised of
medical and spa professionals whose primary purpose is to provide
comprehensive medical and wellness care in an environment which
integrates spa services, as well as conventional and complementary
therapies and treatments.
Mineral Springs Spa
A health resort that draws on an on-site natural source of mineral,
seawater or thermal springs for hydrotherapy to treat certain ailments
or just for relaxation.
Owned by and located within a resort or hotel providing professionally
administered spa services, fitness and wellness components and spa
cuisine menu choices. In addition to the leisure guest, this is a great
place for business travelers who wish to take advantage of the spa
experience while away from home.
A center whose primary objective is fitness, with a selection of sports
and outdoor adventure programmes like golf, skiing, fly-fishing or
marathon conditioning. It may also provide the usual variety of spa
treatments like therapeutic baths and body treatments.
Facility whose primary purpose is fitness and which offers a variety of
professionally administered spa services on a day-use basis.
Cruise Ship Spa
A spa aboard a cruise ship providing professionally administered spa
services, fitness and wellness components and spa cuisine menu choices.
Medical Spa the New Health Care Standard
As medical and spa worlds collaborate to create new business
scenarios and better patient care, they are becoming the fastest
growing health trend. They combine clinical and comfort care in
medical spa industry. Dermatologists, plastic surgeons,
ophthalmologists, oralmaxillofacial surgeons, family physicians,
chiropractors, dentists, medical massage therapists, and many other
medical specialties are seeking to increase revenue through integration
of clinical wellness and traditional spa treatments. The inception of the
medical spa is quickly setting a new standard for success and is
beginning to push health care in new directions.
The Medical spa concept will develop effective strategies for business
expansion, marketing and partnership opportunities. One model that
seems to be particularly viable is the forming of strategic alliances
between physicians, nurses and aestheticians. In a true medical spa,
a physician supervises all treatments and procedures. Sharing clientele
through a spa and physician practice generates more profitable
business all around.
International Spa Associations 2000 Spa Industry Study in August 2000,
in 1999 of 5,700 spas in the United States, only 162 were medical spas.
The medical spas had 1.1 million visits, compared with 63.5 million for
day spas. The study reports medical spas are among the fastest
growing spa types. The spa industrys cumulative increase in number
of locations from 1995 to 2000 has shown growth in medical spas by
133% and day spas by 127%.
Dr. Mauro Romita, one of New York City's first medical spas states,
"Clients come to a medical spa for a more professional level of service.
Patients are healthy and the procedures are elective. They expect that
a physician run spa will be very safe, very reputable and will only make
claims about results that are proven to be true." With insurance
grievances on the rise, more and more physicians will be turning to
alternative care -- prevention, wellness and spa services to increase
the volume of cash based patient procedures.
Universities, medical schools and hospitals like Nations Capital Group,
California Medical Center, Marin General Hospital, and Health First
Healthplex (Merritt Island) have incorporated the medical spa prospect
into their programs.
Choosing a Health Spa or Medical Spa
The key to having a great spa experience is to find out as much as you
can about a spa before you go. This insures that you're time will be well
Remember to find out:
reputation of medical programs
about guest service
if you will be able to create a stress free experience
if the facility is well-maintained and well-staffed
about available exercise equipment
if there are health and fitness assessments
More Questions to ask:
What programs are available?
stress reduction, yoga, relaxation, fitness, weight management...
What's on the menu?
vegetarian, calories counted...
What's included in the price?
lodging, meals, classes, services, treatments...
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