Spas get serious

juva-interior1Spas today are taking a more serious turn. I haven’t had the fortune to spend much time in a medical spa, but I recently did a lot of research for an article in GCI magazine, covering medical spas that provide diagnosis and treatment for traditional and alternative treatments under the supervision of a licensed health care professional.

Out of a desire to do more for her patients than write prescriptions, Grace Keenan, MD, founder, Nova Medical, expanded her Ashburn, VA-based internal medicine practice by adding on a spa. Now in four locations, Nova and The Medical Spa at Nova feature a tremendous amount of integration so she can offer clients a range of services, not because alternative therapies always are the best treatment, but because sometimes they are. “Health care is overly reliant on prescription drugs and surgeries,” said Keenan. “But if it’s going to help a person, doesn’t a warm soak with therapeutic essential oil, instead of popping an anxiety pill, just make sense?” She has had great success in motivating people to help themselves and be proactive in their wellness.

This fusion of aesthetic and medical services is quickly becoming a common approach to skin care. I love the idea of being able to go one place for all your care, and letting a trained professional help you decide which treatment is better for your bad back: massage therapy, chiropractic treatments or drugs! It makes a lot of sense.

Physicians are beginning to think so, too. They are increasingly interested in providing elective wellness treatments that are sought by ever-growing numbers of men and women. Erik Goldman co-founded Holistic Primary Care in 2000 based on the observation that conventionally trained physicians were poorly prepared to address their patients’ surging interest in wellness therapies. Goldman is striving to build an information bridge between alternative health care and mainstream medicine. Whether his readers provide natural approaches themselves or offer referrals, the consumer push for complementary and alternative medicine requires physicians to be knowledgeable so that they can provide patients with useful choices.

Transitional MDs who are thinking about adding wellness care to their practice are taking their cues from patients. “People are dissatisfied with insurance-dominated, pharmaceutical-based medicine,” said Goldman.

The Internet is a primary driver; the free exchange of information, such as blogs and consumer medical sites, allows people to take control of their care. However, people need to be more discerning about what they read online. It is increasingly difficult to distinguish marketing hype from real health information. In turn, doctors have been forced by these “empowered patients” to learn more about the options they are hearing about. “Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when insurance pressures are requiring doctors to spend less time with each patient,” said Goldman. Concierge medicine, such as market leader MDVIP, and fee-for-service options are allowing doctors to see fewer patients but provide more intensive, personal care.

The spa and medical communities can and should work together. Healthy skepticism is good. Both markets need to be more discerning about what they are doing and work together for the consumer good. “Instead of playing on people’s insecurities, allow people to be healthy and enjoy their lives, making good use of medical and therapeutic resources to provide the best care possible,” he explained.

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