Pampering to Prevention: How Doctors, Wellness Practitioners, and Spa Can Play Together Nicely
Spa Insider August 6, 2011

by Monte Zwang

There is a perfect storm brewing that bodes well for the future of forward thinking doctors, spas, and wellness practitioners. We’re finding our way through a fusion of the services and care provided by physicians, wellness practitioners, and spa operators. In order for this to occur, spas have to be more involved with preventive wellness oriented services, and doctors need to view spas as more than an opportunity to bolster their practices with cash (non-insurance paying) patients. Spa operators, physicians, and wellness practitioners must all become lifestyle coaches and service providers. As both spas and medical clinics currently exist, an opportunity to merge the two is clearly on the horizon.

In these challenging economic times, our clientele has less money to spend on luxury or optional services. Spas are struggling because our clientele is struggling financially. Our clientele wants our services, but they have less money to spend and they want services for less money. Coupon sites like Groupon and Living Social have driven prices down and have challenged guest loyalty.

Primary care physicians are struggling and disappearing. As the number of primary practices decreases as it has over the past several years, many of our communities are underserved in basic medical care. Health care costs are spiraling out of control due to the procedures of the insurance companies and inefficiencies in the business practices of medical offices. 47% of health care costs are paid for by public funds, panic has set in, and our efficient and practical government is attempting to mitigate the issue. For some time now, and in the foreseeable future, private practice physicians are not making enough money.

Spas are already providing wellness. The tradition of spas as a place for healing, renewal, relaxation, and feeling well, positions the spa industry as one of the most logical sectors to help lead the wellness movement. Wellness also provides an opportunity to reshape the image of spas, to regroup after the global recession, and to position spas as an investment or an essential element in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There is a growing opportunity for spa operators to move into the world of preventive care services by joining forces with physicians, naturopaths, alternative, and integrative health practitioners. Physicians who operate medical practices have difficulty understanding that spa is not merely a cash opportunity to bolster their practices. Physicians are not trained to deal with the hospitality required to operate a spa. Some hospitals “get it”, have done their research and are leading the band wagon. Take a look at the Cleveland ClinicThe Wellness Center at Dowell Springs and Waters Edge at Lone Pine Village. On a smaller scale this opportunity for spas and medical practices is real and timely.

So what happens to pampering and beauty? I see salons becoming  more “Spalons” taking on the beauty services of skincare, waxing, nails, and hair in a less pampering, less opulent setting similar to what happens with the walk-in anytime street front massage studios in Asia. In their 2011 Spa Trends Report, Spa Finder identifies this as the “Spa in a New York Minute” trend stating that “the spa industry is currently responding to this by providing extended hours and all-night spas to ‘express,’ ‘sampler’ and simultaneous treatments to new, more efficient treatment technology and facility design.”

Now, the rest of that “Perfect Storm”. Remember when the housing bubble burst? Well, the commercial real estate bubble is heading towards burst-dom soon. There are financial and business benefits to real estate ownership. Lower real estate costs with motivated sellers will create an opportunity for physicians, spa operators, and wellness practitioners who are prepared to purchase real estate.

I like collaborative businesses. I like businesses that band together in a synergistic manner, share costs, and operate efficiently. Businesses can co-market and refer each other. If they take a holistic and preventive approach to caring for clientele, physicians, spas, fitness centers, body workers, estheticians, nutritionists, and yoga studios could work together to care for their clientele and lower the cost of healthcare in the process.

We propose the development of Wellness Villages, Health & Wellness Suites, and Healing Arts Campuses. The opportunity exists to provide doctors, alternative medical practitioners, spa owners, and wellness providers with a suite or building where multiple practitioners share a common lobby, reception, administration, conference room, lab, and dispensary. Each would maintain their own consultation and treatment rooms. We feel that this would let the healers heal and provide executive suite business support services. This would create increased practice marketing opportunities via the proximity to and operational synergy with complementary practitioners. The client/patient experiences a unique and supportive healing community where they receive hospitable and professional care and services. The Health & Wellness Village provides centralized and focused preventive care as a result of like-minded physicians and wellness practitioners practicing in a village of complementary practices. Many of the business services required are provided as part of the lease agreement at the village. By focusing on preventive, holistic treatments and primary care medicine, it also brings down the cost of healthcare.

The tenants of these villages would be synergistic pairings of Health, Wellness Fitness, Spa & Beauty practitioners. Wellness Villages could be constructed in office buildings, retail centers or mixed use centers. They could also be built on floors or suites within office buildings. Funding is available in today’s market for owner occupied real estate like this.

Interested? Wellness Capital Management would like to assist in the development of Wellness Villages like this around the country. We can help with assembling a group of like-minded practitioners, setting up the necessary structure, business planning, development and management of the village.