Patient-Centric Revenue Solutions for Practices: Cosmetic Treatments

September 26, 2013

Simple procedures can add a substantial amount of weight to per-patient revenue at your medical practice.

As I mentioned in last week’s opening post, there are many opportunities on the market for physician offices to add revenue streams to their clinics. Some come in the form of adding ancillary services, adding additional providers, products, or even having an independent business unit operating right out of your clinic. Over the next few weeks, I will review some of the biggest and best sources of ancillary revenue that have a patient-centric focus. No matter the metrics or demographics of your practice, there will be a revenue line that is right for you, and most importantly, the patients you serve.

For the first week, let’s review one of last year’s topics and still probably one of the most commonly utilized revenue streams: cosmetic treatments and products. There is really no comparison to the profit margin on a standard or even new patient office visit versus a minor cosmetic treatment (cash only, not billable to insurance). These simple procedures can add a substantial amount of weight to per-patient revenue.

As with any aspect or addition to your practice, it is imperative to do your research and due diligence to make sure that adding cosmetic treatments are right for your ideal patient and your demographic. It is okay if it doesn’t fit in your current patient load, as long as it is congruent with the type of patients and revenue that you would like to bring to your practice.

When you take into account the training available, the procedure itself, the time to acquire the product, the manufacturer support and benefit to your staff and patients: Botox (recently FDA approved for the crow’s feet application, so this is no longer “off-label treatment”) and its competitor Dysport still take the crown for easiest to implement.

As most of you know, Botox and Dysport are used in subcutaneous injections to reduce the fine lines and wrinkles in the upper third of the face. Training is minimal, the procedure is simple, and the manufacturers offer certification classes for providers at no charge.

Some clinics elect to charge by the unit (example: $13-20/unit for 20 units) versus some offices charge by the area (example: $250 for crow's feet). I recommend that my clients charge a flat fee plus a per-unit cost for the initial appointment, then follow up with the patients in two weeks (it takes that long to see the results) and do any touch-up necessary for only the per-unit cost. This model tends to feel most agreeable to patients.

Again with Botox/Dysport, there is little up-front investment involved. The manufacturer typically provides samples for training and enough of the product to treat the office staff (who then become your walking and talking advertisements). Due to the nature of the product (it must be kept cold), Botox/Dysport ships fast, in most instances you could schedule a Friday morning cosmetic clinic and order product two days in advance.

Once you have mastered the Botox/Dysport arena, you may be ready to move onto hyaluronic acid fillers for the lower 2/3 of the face. The flagship products in this arena are still Restylane and Juvaderm.  These fillers are a bit more time consuming and a little more labor intensive than Botox/Dysport.  They often require local anesthetic. The manufacturers will train providers and provide samples for office staff, this skill set is a little more artistic and requires a bit more training. 

The financial rewards for mastering fillers can be quite handsome. I recommend the same charging structure as with the Botox, a flat rate plus a per syringe charge.  An average treatment takes one to two- syringes.  There is little up-front cost for the clinic, and supplies can be ordered a few days in advance.

If cosmetic treatments feel right to your clinic, another option is to add laser treatments. These are often very popular with patients who prefer a more non-invasive approach to maintaining their youthful look, and again they are cash-pay procedures.

Lasers purchased outright can be very expensive, and the technology changes rapidly, so if you are considering purchasing a laser make sure you work into the deal a technology upgrade clause. There are a number of lease-to-own options available, and laser rentals (by the day, half-day, or even hour) are a viable option if you are in a major metropolitan area.

Training is very important for laser treatments; many clinics get burned (no pun intended) in this area, assuming that a laser is difficult to cause harm with. Each device manufacturer has specific training and certification for their specific laser model. It is imperative that you and your staff are trained diligently.

If these simple and rewarding procedures are popular with your patient demographic, there are a number of complimentary items you may choose to add to your cosmetic portfolio. You could add skin care consultations, facials, skincare product lines, etc. All of these items are in the cash-only umbrella, and will generate a nice revenue stream for your office. (Some of these items, depending on your state regulations can be performed by mid-levels, nurses, and/or techs under the supervision of a physician.)

Electing to add cosmetic treatments as an additional revenue stream has great perks for your office staff and the potential for huge perks in your profit as well. In a few markets cosmetic treatments have taken a hit recently with the economy, but most of my clients find that it continues to be a flourishing market.  Do your diligence, research your patient population and your local market to ensure that these minor cosmetic treatments are in-line with the demand in your area and ensure it is something that you will enjoy as a provider. 

Be cautious not to let the excitement get to your head (and your wallet). Begin with Botox/Dysport, add hyaluronic acid fillers and any complimentary services you choose, and, after that is flourishing, poll your cosmetic patients to see if laser treatments are a fit before committing to that purchase. As with anything I recommend to you or my clients make sure cosmetic treatments are interesting to you and an area you can be passionate about, otherwise it just won’t flourish in your clinic.

Do you have a question about a revenue-generating product or service line that has been pitched to your practice? Would you like another view on a system you are considering implementing in our clinic?  Submit your anonymous questions to Ask Audrey and practice management expert Audrey “Christie” McLaughlin, RN, will review the pros and cons during this Revenue-Generating Services for Physicians Series on Practice Notes.