By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, Founder/Director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
First, thanks to everyone who commented on the latest blog and statement related to The Dr. Oz Show’s segment on rogue medical spas. We received a TON of feedback on the issue, and I know that all of you are equally concerned about some of the shady practices that go on in this industry. I think that the most important takeaway from all of this is the importance of realizing that each of our individual actions—and those of our medical spas and teams—impacts the entire industry. Although most do the right thing, it’s the few bad actors that give the industry a poor reputation. Perception is reality in this space, and it’s time that each of us take responsibility—and action—for the industry as a whole. If we do that, we’ll flourish.
With that said, many have contacted me with questions about what to do when you know someone is breaking the law or not following applicable regulations. When should you report someone? Also, who do you report them to?
This is obviously a very relevant question, but there’s not necessarily an easy answer. First, it’s important to understand that reporting a competitor—or anyone for that matter—to the medical board is a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly. In my opinion, this should not be done unless you know, for certain and without a doubt, that the provider or medical spa (1) knows the law, and (2) is actively choosing not to follow it. If you are not certain of those two things, I would at least give the person or practice the chance to become compliant.
Remember, many started out in this industry not knowing the first thing about medical spa law. When I first started AmSpa, nearly 100% of the med spas I talked to were non-compliant. It is only through education and the hard work of the industry that we’ve started spreading the word about compliance. Nevertheless, there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of med spas operating right now that have never been told—not by their boards, their professors, or lawyers—that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s not that they don’t want to be compliant, they just don’t know the rules in the first place.
This is NOT an excuse for the bad actors out there, as most of them are taking extreme steps that are obvious to all of us as being illegal.
What I don’t want to happen is for the entire industry to turn on itself and start reporting everyone else for every perceived offense without truly knowing whether the rules are being broken. Remember: Once you report someone, the cat is out of the bag. The medical board (or nursing board, cosmetology board, etc.) is required to conduct an investigation. If they find nothing wrong, the charges are typically dropped. But guess what? They rarely find nothing wrong. Almost all medical spas are doing at least one thing incorrectly, because most have had no training on compliance, and the rules that are in place are incredibly complex.
So, here’s the rub: If the boards are inundated with thousands of complaints about medical spas, state legislatures will do their thing and start over-regulating the industry. This could end up being the worst thing for everyone.
I want to be clear about one thing: If you know of—and are completely certain—that a med spa is performing dangerous procedures, intentionally breaking the law, or endangering patients, I absolutely, 100% want you to report them to the state medical board immediately. Do not pass GO—report them right away. You know who I’m talking about. These are the folks that are burning and deforming people; the ones featured on The Dr. Oz Show. Those people need to be rooted out, and quickly.
If you know a practice is behaving in this manner the first step is to a) find out what license the spa or practitioner is operating under and then b) contact the board that governs that license. Typically physicians and physician assistants are governed by medical boards, nurse practitioners and other nurses are governed by nursing boards, aestheticians are governed by cosmetology boards, etc. In some states, like Illinois for example, license holders are governed by a licensing department like the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), in which case reports should go to this licensing body.
However, the much harder case is when you think someone is doing something wrong, or if you know they’re doing something wrong, but you’re not sure if they even know the rule. Again, if there’s danger to patients or others involved, report them right away. But if not, I would reach out to them and let them know, respectfully, that the states are cracking down and that you’re worried they are not in compliance. Refer them to AmSpa. Send them an e-mail with a link to their state page. Send them one of my videos. But try, at least once, to get them on the right side of the law. Again, remember where you were two or three years ago. Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone reached out and tried to inform you? Do it, it’s good karma.
And I know what many of you are thinking: “But it’s a competitor! Won’t it be good for me if they get caught and go down?” No, it wouldn’t. For one, it’s bad corporate karma (unless, again, it’s obvious and necessary to report them for public safety). And two, as described above, tons of complaints coming at once is going to make it harder for everyone to survive, including your own business. Trust me, this industry is just getting started. There’s plenty of money for everyone.
What if the provider or medical spa ignores you and continues to knowingly violate the rules, or puts patients in danger? Then I want you to report them immediately. Call your medical board and tell them exactly what you know, because those are the “rogue” medical spas that need to be weeded out.
Hope this helps … AmSpa is here for you, so keep sending questions!