Conference Coverage

How to choose the best aesthetic devices when launching your career


 

FROM ODAC 2021

When a new body contouring device hit the market a few years ago, Nazanin Saedi, MD, had an opportunity to become the first Philadelphia area dermatologist to add the technology to her practice.

Dr. Nazanin Saedi, dermatologist who directs the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center in Philadelphia.

Dr. Nazanin Saedi

“I thought about it, but it didn’t make sense because it wasn’t something important to my patient population,” Dr. Saedi, who directs the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center in Philadelphia, said during the Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic and Clinical Conference. “If I’m not going to have the patient demand and make money from it, then it just doesn’t make sense.”

That experience illustrates one of many pearls of advice that Dr. Saedi shared during a presentation about how to select the best devices when starting your dermatology career: Know your patient population. “Include additional questions in new patient intake forms or online forms to get a sense of what your patient population is interested in,” she advised. “It’s important to understand that before you start to offer new services. Don’t just depend on social media to inform you of the latest trends and what people are doing across the country, because if you purchase something that is very popular on social media for people in New York or L.A., that might not be the best for your practice.”

According to market trends from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, 3.5 million laser-, light-, and energy-based procedures were performed in 2018. The top five were for wrinkles (809,166), sun damage (786,856), facial redness (612,367), excess hair (385,466), and melasma (226,007). “Considering this data, when you start a practice, do you buy something for wrinkles or for sun damage right away?” Dr. Saedi asked. “Maybe, but you really need to gauge the market that you practice in. You also want to consider your own skill set and what other dermatologists in your area are offering. If you don’t want to do aggressive procedures, then purchasing a fractional CO2 laser might not be the best device to start off with. If you are not comfortable dealing with those patients, and potential infections and scarring, then that’s not the right treatment for you. You have to reflect on and identify what you’re comfortable learning and doing and managing.”

Taking time to investigate the services offered by dermatologists and med spas within a few miles of your practice can help you avoid redundancy. “Learn the techniques and the small nuances that will give you a little bit of finesse and make you an expert, to set you apart from other practices,” said Dr. Saedi, who coauthored a chapter in the book, “The Business of Dermatology” (New York: Thieme Medical Publishers, 2020). “I always recommend treating your staff and members of your family, to understand how you can tweak treatments to get the most out of them. Once you treat your staff, they are walking advertisements for what you do. They can also counsel patients, walking them through the healing process after a procedure, so they can know what to expect.”

Appropriate planning and preparation can help avoid acquiring the wrong device, she continued. This includes patient demand, scheduling availability, office space, overhead costs, and the level of staff training. She recommends buying one device at a time and clearing profitability from that device before purchasing another, “because it can be a burden on your practice to have multiple devices all at once,” she said. “You also have to think about the hidden costs – the maintenance and the service contracts. That can exceed $10,000 per year, so consider that when you’re looking to purchase a new device.”

Most people buy laser-, light-, and energy-based devices, but renting for a stretch can help you test the waters without a significant long-term investment. “It might not be the newest laser, but it can help you gauge how much of demand you have for that service to see if you have the patient base to make that larger step of purchasing the device,” she said. “If you buy a new device, make sure that it’s not a counterfeit and that you still have a company service contract. There are many third-party companies selling pre-owned laser aesthetics. Make sure you’re getting the authentic device and that there is some kind of a service contract with the actual manufacturer so they can help fix it when things break down.”

When Dr. Saedi counsels residents about purchasing devices, she typically recommends these five categories in order of preference: vascular, pigment, hair, resurfacing, and body contouring/skin tightening. “If you can cover vascular, pigment, and some kind of textural improvement, you can treat about 90% of aesthetic patients who come through your door,” she said. “Sure, there are some who may want skin tightening that you may not be able to offer with laser resurfacing, but you’re going to be able capture a high patient population by offering these services,” she added. That is why a lot of people end up getting a platform with attachable handpieces, “where you can have one system that is able to offer many different services right off the bat.”

She advised factoring in the amount of time it takes for a procedure and how much time it will take up in a certain room. “That will affect your revenue as well. Are you going to delegate this, or is this something you will do on your own? Take that into account.”

Above all, don’t rush your device purchase. “Some laser company sales representatives may pressure you at the end of a quarter by saying, ‘This is the best deal I’m going to offer you. You’re never going to get a deal like this ever again,’ ” she said. “I advise people to do multiple demos so you’re not just doing a demo for a day and seeing one or two patients. Treat the same patients again a month later. Do multiple demos so that you can feel comfortable. Talk to dermatologists who have the device, who have real experience with it, so you can have the most amount of information moving forward.”

Dr. Saedi reported that she has received equipment from Alma, Aerolase, Cartessa, and Cynosure. She is a consultant to and/or an advisory board member for those companies, as well as for Alastin.

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