By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, Founder/Director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
Does your med spa website meet all your local laws and regulations? According to the 2017 Medical Spa State of the Industry Report, a website is the most frequently used marketing tool for med spa practices. If you don’t have one, you’re losing out. A very common mistake being made by med spas across the country, however, is the failure to create and maintain a website that accurately reflects and realistically represents the business structure and ownership of the med spa.
Due to recent substantial growth in the med spa industry, regulatory authorities in several states are cracking down on med spas that are, or appear to be, operating illegally. But just how are these state regulatory agencies obtaining information on the business operations and workings of med spas? And what information is leading investigators to believe a med spa is operating illegally?
Websites. Technology and social media has driven businesses, big and small, to use the Internet as a tool to provide information to their clients. Med spas are no exception. A majority of med spas across the county operate websites with information about their “team” of professionals, the services provided, specials and discounts offered and even explanations of the different treatments and procedures clients can purchase.
Many of these websites provide bios of the professionals that own and operate the med spa and perform medical procedures. But, unfortunately, in several instances those individuals are not licensed to practice medicine and thus, cannot perform medical procedures or own a medical practice. State regulatory authorities have caught onto this- and now they are enlisting investigators to examine med spa websites looking for signs of illegal ownership or the unauthorized practice of medicine.
For instance, in Illinois, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”) has begun launching investigations against med spas based solely on their website content. (AmSpa members: check your state’s medical aesthetic legal summary for more information on medical advertising in your state.) The IDFPR, much like other state regulatory agencies, has an enormous case load and it is impossible for investigators to personally visit every med spa to investigate and determine whether the spa is in compliance with state laws. Instead, to save time and effort, investigators are tasked with reviewing the websites of med spas to obtain information on ownership, business structure, fee structure, staff qualifications, and services.
If the med spa website does not realistically reflect its business practices or falsely depicts a non-physician as an owner or co-owner of the med spa, it will quickly be on the IDFPR’S “radar” and the owners and employees associated with the med spa can face suspension of licenses, fines and penalties. Click here to read more about non-physicians owning med spas.
Although not all states have prohibitions against non-physician ownership of medical spas, most states prohibit fee-splitting between physicians and non-physicians. If a website advertises ownership by a non-physician and highlights a physician as a “medical director” for the med spa, it is likely that the non-physician owner is receiving patient fees and then splitting these fees with the physician on staff. This constitutes fee-splitting between the physician and the non-physician owner of the med spa and it is illegal.
To ensure that your med spa website is in compliance with state and federal laws and to avoid the widening “radar” of investigating state agencies, it is important to perform a careful review your website for any terms or titles that may be red flags. Although there is no script to follow in creating a flawless med spa website, here are a few essential pieces of advice:
- List the physician owner prominently on the website to show the physician’s involvement in the business;
- If you employ an advanced practice nurse or licensed nurse practitioner to consult with and treat patients under the supervision of the physician owner, include this individual prominently on the website to inform clients and potential clients of that individual’s involvement in patient care;
- Importantly, if employing a registered nurse or aesthetician as the med spa’s “go to” coordinator or office manager, bestow upon the individual a title that properly reflects his/her duties, responsibilities, and limitations.
As technology grows, websites and other forms of social media become increasingly important for med spas looking to grow their business and compete in the marketplace. Now is the time to reevaluate your med spa’s online presence and ensure that if you have a website, or plan to establish one that you are conforming to the law and using the website to help, not hurt your business.
To learn more about how to build and run a legal and successful medical spa practice attend an AmSpa Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camp and be the next med spa success story.