BY AMISH PATEL
Medical aesthetics has been great in developing my skills and knowledge as a pharmacist; firstly, in dermatology, but also, as a pharmacy student, I never thought I would have any experience injecting people, let alone peoples’ faces.
The industry has been around for decades but had never come into the remit of pharmacists until more recently. Starting up and getting going, therefore, was not as easy as I initially expected. I first began looking at medical aesthetics around six years ago. I could see it was becoming a new trend with people wanting to look younger as we all unfortunately get older. I have also always had an interest in dermatology and skin care.
At the time, I could not find many companies to offer training that I felt gave me sufficient confidence, or any insurers to insure pharmacists. However, it all changed three years ago when I found a training company that also partnered with an insurance provider who insures pharmacists.
The other main hindrance was opening accounts with suppliers of dermal fillers and botulinum toxin. Few would recognise my qualification as a pharmacist at first to open an account. But this was quickly resolved and speaking to others, I do not believe any of this is an issue anymore.
You must ensure that you have an appropriate consultation room to run the service. It is very different to other services such as a travel clinic. To carry out the service, any good size consultation room, with a treatment couch and space to move around is a good start.
Other facilities required in the room are storage space, a sink, and clinical waste bin. But the more ‘clinical’ the room is, the more comfortable patients feel and assume all to be clinically clean.
Marketing the services is very different to any other pharmacy service. A few posters in the pharmacy and staff training is not enough. I quickly had to learn about and implement things like social media marketing and search engine optimisation to get on the first page of Google. This takes a lot of time and/or money.
The most popular treatment is anti-wrinkle injections, commonly referred to as muscle relaxing injections of Botox. Safety starts with good training. But all aspects come together to ensure safety; appropriate room, disinfectant, clean work areas. We have also expanded the number of services we offer with an equal focus on dermatology and skin care to botulinum toxin and dermal fillers. People love the clinic being in the pharmacy as it is a healthcare setting as opposed to a beauty salon.
Those seeking treatment vary across the entire spectrum of age and background. We have treated between the ages of 18 to 85, males, females, couples that come in together. There are lots of things to consider, such as if treatment is appropriate, are people addicted, do they have body dysmorphia disorder, mental wellbeing, as well as ensuring patient expectations meet reality. Three years on, I have patients travelling an average of 45 minutes from surrounding towns/cites, and from all around London to my pharmacy in Kent.
To date, I have spent over £10k on training costs alone. Insurance will vary depending on your provider, but I have had quotes ranging from £600 to £3,000. The other big costs are marketing, clinical waste collection, and initial stock to get going. This is all assuming you already have an appropriate consultation room, but otherwise, a chair will also need to be factored in, which can cost up to £2,000. To those considering starting up, I would suggest putting aside £20K. These seem like big numbers to getting a service going, but with the right marketing, and remembering to respect ourselves and our time as medical professionals, the margins can be rewarding.
There are many clinics in the surrounding area, but by keeping to my prices and not cutting to try and compete on a price level with the competition, I have continued to grow the clinic year on year. Some will always seek the cheapest deal, and these patients are less likely to be loyal. Many will also question why others are cheap and respect that these are medical procedures.
Finally, I believe marketing and good results is what separates successful clinics from those that start up and close down very quickly. While confidence in injecting and continual development are a must, being an independent prescriber is essential.
The writer is managing director at Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic. This article also appears in the July issue of Pharmacy Business.