By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, CEO of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
Medical spas are medical practices, so they are bound by the laws governing medical advertising. As soon as you are involved in any kind of medical treatment, you are subject to very strict requirements when it comes to advertising your practice.
According to the 2017 Medical Spa State of the Industry Report, digital marketing practices—specifically websites, email and organic social media—are the three most common marketing techniques for medical spas. Businesses cannot simply rely on word of mouth or good reviews attract customers—they must create effective promotional campaigns because there is so much competition and because the industry is cash-based, rather than insurance-based. Therefore, it is easy for medical spa owners and operators to slip into the retail mindset that they are going to do whatever they need to do to get people to come in. And while we do, in fact, encourage people to run their medical spas in such a manner, it is important to keep in mind that these practices are, above all, medical practices, so they are subject to the same rules and regulations that govern more traditional medical institutions.
Telling the Truth
All state medical boards have certain requirements for medical advertising. Most are relatively similar, but practitioners need to look at and understand their state laws regarding advertising. These regulations are typically fairly easy to find, and most are generally similar in that they require absolute, verifiable honesty.
Unlike, say, a car dealership or a furniture outlet, a medical outlet makes must be able to prove the claims it makes are true. For example, if you say, “Our nurses are the best injectors in the country,” that is likely to attract some unwanted attention—a medical board or nursing board is going to see such a claim and ask what it’s based on. It’ll ask where the proof of this is, and unless you’re prepared to submit something to that effect—which, obviously, is not possible—your practice could be in some trouble.
In the past, if you read the in-flight magazines from the major airlines, you may have seen lists of “best doctors in America.” If you’ve looked at these publications in recent years, however, you may have noticed that these lists have been changed to say “among the best doctors in America,” because that is at least somewhat truthful, and the doctors mentioned in these pieces are concerned about compliance too.
Whether it’s in marketing collateral, on social media, or in influencer marketing, everything that’s said about your medical spa must be objectively verifiable. You can achieve this by citing your credentials and your certifications. We previously wrote about misleading titles that are used by some medical spa employees, and those merit mention here too—if you refer to an employee as a “medical aesthetician” or a “certified laser technician” in your advertising materials, you’re asking for trouble—you have to prove your employees are what you say they are, and in cases such as these, it simply can’t be done.
Under the Influence
Speaking of influencers, there also are a number of issues regarding social media in general and influencer marketing specifically. First and foremost, the FTC recently introduced a list of guidelines regarding proper disclosures that must be in place for compliant social media influencer marketing.
If you’re not sure your advertising is compliant, you can always ask your lawyer to evaluate it before it’s posted. Some state boards will even permit you to submit ads to them for review to make sure they’re compliant, although this process tends to take quite a while. Regardless, it’s very important that your practice does what it can to maintain compliant advertising, because the penalties for violations can be severe.
For more information on medical spa laws in your state, check your medical aesthetic legal summary. To learn more about legal and business best practices, attend one of AmSpa’s Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps and start on your road to becoming the next medical spa success story.