Why Aesthetic Practitioners Are Moving Towards Subscription-Based Service Models

Many innovative practice management strategies can be employed with the aim of boosting revenue that also favor patient retention, loyalty, as well as expenditure. Certain methods can also improve patient compliance with regard to recommended treatment intervals for aesthetic procedures while also guaranteeing practices a steady stream of income. A growing number of aesthetic medicine providers have begun offering a subscription-based service model after evidence of its potential to increase both treatment adherence – and thus, patient outcomes – as well as revenue, especially during a particularly challenging time for non-emergency medical services.

Treatment Noncompliance in Aesthetic Medicine Patients 

Research estimates that up to 73% of aesthetic patients do not comply with recommended treatment intervals for toxins, fillers, and other procedures at times waiting up to double the amount of time between appointments. “When we talk about how often the average patient should be treated with Botox, for instance, we say every 3-4 months,” Dr. W. Grant Stevens, founder and CEO of Marina Plastic Surgery said during a recent event.

Instead, he explains that patients tended to come in every 7 months before he implemented a subscription model at this practice. “Not only did they come in infrequently, but they oftentimes were undercorrected and the revenue was being left on the table because of discounting and undercorrection,” Dr. Stevens said.

Per data from a 2015 study of 23 Bay Area aesthetic practices, the vast majority of patients attend clinic visits fewer than 3-4 times a year for their treatments and most are noncompliant with clinician recommendations. On average, patients spend approximately $600 on treatments 1.4 times a year, yet the industry standard for neuromodulators requires closer to 3-4 appointments per year. For HydraFacials and other types of medical spa facials, the recommended interval is 2 months.

Further Implications of Noncompliance

The negative implications of patients extending the time interval between treatments reach beyond aesthetic repercussions. “For our practices, noncompliance leads to unhappy, undertreated patients, so they may write negative reviews,” Dr. Stevens said. “In addition to that, we lose revenue.” Citing results from a 2016 focus group of aesthetic medicine patients asked about perceived barriers to treatment compliance, he reported that 68% believe cost is the issue, followed by the number of treatments required at 43% as well as the perceived effectiveness of treatment at 16%.

Subscription-Based Models

Dr. Stevens implemented a subscription treatment plan service at his practice which included 472 active members at the time. Before introducing the subscription-based model, his patients came in for toxins treatments an average of 1.8 times per year. After implementing the service, Dr. Stevens’ practice average visit count rose to 3.1 times per year resulting in an incremental average increase of $800 spent on toxins alone.

“More importantly, the patients were therapeutic all year long,” he commented. Combining results with those of filler services the increased income grew to over $1,100 per patient which increased the practice’s annual revenue by $519,200.

According to Dr. A. Jay Burns, the medical director of the EpiCentre Skin Care and Laser Center med spa in Dallas, the subscription model he implemented rapidly expanded and continues to grow his practice. His spa reported an increase in Botox sales of 31% and filler sales of up to 43% as a result of this strategy. 

Is a Subscription Model Right for Your Practice?

The subscription-based membership model is rapidly becoming a popular billing strategy for medical spas, many of which utilize the popular software HintMD to provide patients with a mobile app that streamlines appointment scheduling, calendar reminders, as well as billing resources. Utilizing a subscription software allows for customizable treatment billing among other individualized capabilities that alleviate a significant burden for practice administrators.

If you are considering employing a similar model at your practice, you might consider incentivizing patients to join the subscription plan and become members by offering various benefits ranging from potential discounts on procedures to even free treatments. It is important to emphasize the ease of following a professionally tailored and curated treatment plan, as well as the improved aesthetic outcomes associated with compliance, all of which are supported by the convenient scheduling of appointments in advance as part of a patient’s subscription.

A large proportion of patients prefer subscription-based models to large one-time payments and disjointed appointments as they already use such services in many other aspects of their lives. Favored for their personalized and customizable approach, such offerings allow consumers to make convenient, affordable monthly payments throughout the year while also guaranteeing practices a steady stream of revenue. This can be an especially helpful strategy for aesthetic medicine practices currently experiencing declines in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and associated losses in patient volume.