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    Taking the leap: 6 steps to successfully adding a new aesthetic service

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    Ms. Graf
    WITH TODAY'S UNCERTAIN ECONOMY, does it make sense in a "demand lull" for cosmetic surgeons to explore adding an aesthetic procedure to try to maximize revenue from their current patient base? One expert answers with a cautious yes, but stresses that such an expansion must be a specifically directed business move — much more than hanging an announcement in the reception area and hoping for patient uptake. Rather, physicians need to invest their energy, time and money into making it work.

    Cindy Graf, of Cindy Graf Consulting, LLC, Milwaukee, Wis., says that physicians who are thinking about adding a new cosmetic service should first determine their goals. "I always say, start with the end result and work backwards....What do you hope to accomplish? What is your goal for adding this to your business? Is it to raise the profile of your business? Is it to add a certain dollar amount of revenue? Or [more] to keep your cosmetic surgical patients in your practice rather than lose them to medical spa competitor? All that really determines whether it is going to work or not [number one] and whether it should be done onsite or off," she tells Cosmetic Surgery Times .

    1. WHAT'S ON THE MENU? Once you've determined your goals, she advises, decide what you would like to add in the way of services. Ms. Graf asks her clients about their skill sets and what they enjoy doing.

    "If you enjoy working with women in their middle years, maybe you want to do weight management/minimal incision liposuction [if you have a surgical background]. But if you do not like working with overweight women, that's the last thing you want to do," she says.

    The choice(s) you elect to add to your menu is a starting point. From there, Ms. Graf suggests polling patients in the practice, to ask them what they think of the proposed service additions. She's developed a 30-second questionnaire, which she instructs physicians to give to patients who come in the office. After about two weeks of accumulating patients' answers, Ms. Graf compiles results, honing the new service offerings to not only what physicians know and love, but also to what patients want and are willing to have performed in their practice.

    2. LEARN & PURCHASE Armed with this data, physicians can then budget for requisite equipment and supply needs, staffing, space and more. Enter, the business plan.

    Ms. Graf says most practices can absorb the financial brunt of additions to their aesthetic repertoire by utilizing existing space and some of the facility's overhead. But most may need to lease equipment and obtain minimal ancillary supplies for the new procedure.

    Staff is clearly another financial consideration, she says. It often makes sense to add a staff member, especially in plastic surgery practices that still rely heavily on reimbursement (where the staff is lean and busy). "Often, if they want to successfully integrate the procedure, they need to add one key personnel who is able to direct [the additional service], do the financials, marketing, implementation and make sure the whole...thing is running."

    Ms. Graf suggests that one of the first people you may want to consider for the job may be your favorite pharmaceutical representative.

    "Drug reps are excellent people to do seminars, network and learn the treatments. They have a great skill mix. They know medicine, treat people well, know sales and, generally, speak well," she says.

    3. TAKE A TEST DRIVE Ms. Graf recommends to her noncore physician clients, as well as to cosmetic surgeons who have not added new services to their practices recently, that they spend a few days at a course specifically designed to facilitate the aesthetic service expansion. She serves as a faculty instructor at the International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine's (IAPAM) weekend retreat. There, physicians can learn not only the latest tips in the business of aesthetic medicine, but can also be oriented to aesthetic add-ons such as skin care, fillers and chemical peel treatments.

    While this training can help physicians launch their new cosmetic service, it is not meant to serve as an end-all to learning what they need to know to be successful. Physicians should also be prepared to attend related meetings and explore continued training.

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    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.

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