By: Alex R. Thiersch, JD, Founder/Director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
Since medical spas are medical practices, they are bound by the laws governing medical advertising. The minute you are involved in any kind of medical treatment, you are subject to much more stringent requirements than traditional companies when it comes to advertising your practice.
Med Spas and Marketing
According to the 2017 Medical Spa State of the Industry Report, the three most common marketing techniques for medical spas are digital, including websites, email, and organic social media. Businesses cannot simply rely on word of mouth or good reviews bring in customers—they must create effective promotional campaigns to attract new clients because there is so much competition and because the industry is cash-based, rather than insurance-based. Given this, it is easy for medical spa owners and operators to slip into the mindset that they are going to do whatever they need to do to get people in the door. And while we encourage people to run their medical spas in such a manner, it is important for them 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.
Truth in Advertising
All state medical boards have certain provisions that deal with medical advertising. Most of them are relatively similar, but it’s important for practitioners to look at and understand their state laws regarding advertising. These rules and regulations are typically fairly easy to find, and most of them are generally similar in that they require absolute, verifiable honesty.
Unlike, say, a car dealership or a furniture outlet, the claims a medical outlet makes must be true. For example, if you say, “Dr. Thiersch is the best injector in the state of Illinois,” or “Our nurses are the best injectors in the country,” that is likely to become an issue. A medical board or nursing board is going to see a claim like that and ask what you’re basing this on. It’ll want to know where the proof of this is, and unless you’re prepared to submit something to that effect—which, quite frankly, is impossible—your practice could be in some trouble.
In the past, if you perused the in-flight magazines from the major airlines, you may have seen their lists of “best doctors in America.” If you looked at these publications in recent years, however, 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 must be concerned about compliance, too.
Whether it’s in marketing collateral, on social media, or even using influencer marketing, you need to make sure that everything that’s said about your medical spa is objectively verifiable. You can do this by citing your credentials and your certifications. We previously wrote about misleading titles that are used by some medical spa employees, and those definitely merit mention here too—if you use titles such as “medical esthetician” and “certified laser technician” in your advertising materials, you’re asking for trouble, because you have to prove that you are what you say you are, and in cases such as these, it simply can’t be done.
Social Media Influencers
Speaking of influencers, there are also a number of issues to note regarding social media in general, and influencer marketing specifically. In particular, the FTC recently laid down a list of guidelines regarding proper disclosures that must be in place for compliant social media influencer marketing.
You can always ask your lawyer to review your advertisements before they’re posted in order to make sure you’re compliant¬. Some state boards will even allow you to submit ads to them to make sure they’re compliant, although the review 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 about legal and business best-practices to keep your med spa compliant and profitable, attend one of AmSpa’s Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps and be the next med spa success story.