By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, Founder/Director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
Botox parties are a common topic in med spa law because of how lucrative they can be, but are they legal?
One thing I love about the med spa industry is that med spa owners and providers are continuing to innovate. The ideas that come from AmSpa members on marketing, branding, and business always leave me impressed. This is one reason why it is so difficult to keep track of what’s legal and what’s not - many of the ideas we are asked about are brand new. They’ve never been tested before, and therefore it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine where the legal constraints are.
While not new, Botox parties are an innovation like this. These are events hosted by a med spa or a provider, either at the med spa or another location, where people get together to socialize, learn about treatments, and try new treatments. Often the med spa provides discounts on product so that they can get new patients in the door. Often alcohol is served. These are highly social events that mix pleasure with aesthetics, which makes the idea of getting injected with a needle a little more palatable.
A question I get all the time, though, is whether these events are legal, particularly when they are held outside of the med spa (at someone’s house or a salon). And the question that always follows - is it worth it?
The answer to both of these questions is yes - it is absolutely legal (in most states - sorry, Nevada*), and it is ABSOLUTELY worth it. But like most things in this industry, both of these answers are dependent upon you adhering strictly to the law. No amount of money is worth losing your license, and, yes, I have seen nurses lose their licenses because of improperly hosted Botox parties. AmSpa members can check their medical aesthetic legal summary to find the law regarding Botox parties in their particular state.
The primary point to remember is that when you provide any medical treatment off site all the same rules apply. New patients must be seen by a doctor, nurse practitioner (NP), or physician assistant (PA) prior to being treated. Proper records must be kept. Consents must be signed. Before and After photos should be taken. Everything that you are required to do legally in your med spa should be done at the Botox party.
Additionally, check with your insurance carrier before the party to ensure that you have coverage for offsite treatments, and double check local ordinances regarding serving alcohol - sometimes a permit is required.
The biggest risk at Botox parties, or any social event involving med spa treatments, is that a patient will be treated by an RN without first seeing the doctor (or NP/PA). All patients must be seen first so that a plan can be set. This can ONLY be done by an MD, or by an NP or PA operating under proper authority. Indeed, even if the patient consents to being treated by the RN without first seeing the doctor, that does not allow the RN to inject the patient without the patient first seeing a doctor.
At Botox parties this can be difficult because there are new patients socializing, there is sometimes alcohol being consumed, and everyone is more relaxed. This is a step that MUST be followed, though, because an RN cannot practice medicine, and therefore the RN cannot legally perform the initial assessment, establish the physician-patient relationship, and set a treatment plan. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Equally as important is obtaining patient consents, including privacy waivers given that treatments are usually performed out in the open. And providers should be mindful of patients consuming alcohol. While not strictly illegal, we all know that alcohol makes people less inhibited and often clouds judgment. This is NOT good when it comes to patient consent. All patients should offer consent before they begin drinking, and the drinking should be kept to a minimum. This is not always easy, but trust me, if there’s an adverse outcome you’ll wish that alcohol was not involved.
Also be mindful of photos and social media. These events are a great way to market your med spa - people are having fun, everyone is happy, and you remove much of the clinical aspects of aesthetic medicine. Be careful, however, when photos or videos are posted - every patient is entitled to privacy, and if any patient has failed to sign a privacy release and an authorization to use their photos, there is a risk of a breach of patient privacy.
Are They Worth It?
So the fact that these events are legal begs the question - is it worth it? The answer is emphatically yes, provided you strictly adhere to legal guidelines. Botox parties and social events are a great way to get new clients introduced to your practice, pre-book treatments, and bring in some cash. To get started setting up your own events check out the Secrets to Successful Event Planning in the AmSpa Store.
The usual protocol is to offer discounts on treatments and pre-bookings (both for injectables and laser packages), provided they are purchased that night. Patients are encouraged to bring friends and colleagues to meet the providers and learn more about aesthetics. Depending on the size of the event, it is not uncommon for a practice to bring in six figures worth of treatments and bookings - in one day.
Even that kind of money isn’t worth losing your license, though, so be careful and diligent with your compliance efforts.
I urge you to move cautiously when it comes to planning and hosting one of these events. Do your homework and ensure compliance is in place. Go easy on the alcohol. Make sure you’ve got proper insurance. If you have any questions whatsoever, consult with a qualified lawyer ahead of time so that all of the proper documentation is in place, the needed personnel are available, and all the rules are followed.
For more information on running your med spa legally and profitably, attend one of AmSpa’s Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps, and become the next med spa success story.
*Nevada recently passed a law restricting the injection of Botox and fillers to a doctor’s office, essentially banning the ability to host Botox parties.