The cosmetic medical industry, like many other industries, is becoming more corporatised, with big businesses now owning the majority of shopping centre clinics, as well as locally well-known brand name clinics. In fact, when you see a well-known clinic being ‘rebranded’, the odds are that it is now owned by a large corporate company. Does this mean a better service, value and outcome for you? We don’t think so, hence our commitment to remaining independent, so that we are answerable to you, our patients. Let us share with you some of our observations.
Big businesses look at the cosmetic medical industry and see it as being fragmented and therefore ripe for consolidation. The aim is to scale these clinics, run them more efficiently, in order to extract more profit and maximise return on investment for the shareholders of the corporate company. Alternatively, they aim to make their money at the initial public offering (IPO or stock market launch) for newly listed companies, or to achieve ‘growth by acquisitions’.
There are a couple of advantages that we can think of. Firstly, the buying power of big businesses may allow new equipment to be purchased, and allowing some clinics to make capital investments that they might otherwise not able to make. Secondly, consumers can go into branches of these businesses and get more or less the same treatments being offered.
Aim of corporate-owned clinics — drive profit for shareholders:
When corporates which own these clinics talk about driving further growth, scale and profitability, aiming to deliver excellent results for shareholders as they continue to grow, or that their ability to manage operations at scale, coupled with expertise and consultative selling and retailing, will provide a point and differentiation and add value, alarm bells start to ring. All this corporate talk and mantra makes one thing clear, they are there to generate profit for the benefit of their shareholders, rather than to deliver value to you as the consumer.
One might argue that to maintain long term profitability, corporates need to do the right thing by their customers, in order to ensure that the customers return. This has been shown to be untrue, as we have learnt from the recent Royal Commission into the banking and finance industries, and the current Royal Commission into the aged care industry. Corporate cultures are notoriously profit driven and they will hide what they can behind a cloak of respectability. It is easy to hide sales targets, key performance indicators and profitability under soft and soothing words, and the familiarity of brand ambassadors.
Leverage cheaper inexperienced staff to drive down the bottom line:
One of the ways to achieve ‘scale’ is to recruit more employees to carry out treatments, to delegate more treatments to junior staff, and to upsell products and treatments. In Australia, both doctors and nurses are able to administer cosmetic injectables. Many people are not aware that when you see a nurse for any injectable treatments, you have to be consulted by a doctor first, who will then prescribe a course of treatment to be administered by nurses. In many corporate clinics, this step is treated as a perfunctory formality and patients often do not even know who the prescribing doctor is, and in many clinics, the doctor may not even be onsite. This is particularly concerning should a complication arise.
Typically, corporate clinics are led and managed by people from a business rather than a medical background. They understand however it is the clinicians who attract people to the brand. It is common for corporate clinics to have brand ambassadors. Some of these might even be previous clinic owners who sold their clinics to the corporations. They appear on advertising which may indirectly infer that they are still working as clinicians, but they infact, often delegate most of their work to other employees.
We, as doctors, are troubled by the increasing corporatisation of all aspects of medicine, including cosmetic medicine. As doctors, we take the care of our patients as our first concern and priority and we strive to practice medicine safely and effectively. Aesthetic Harmony is our practice and all consultations, all injectable treatments and all initial laser treatments are carried out by us, as doctors and medical directors. Achieving excellence for you remains our core value and we believe that you are too important for us to delegate.
At Aesthetic Harmony, we are answerable to our patients only. We purchase equipment that are the safest and most efficacious in order to give you the best outcome, not the best business case. We will not be slave to key performance indicators set by hidden corporate headquarters, and it is our professional duty as doctors to only recommend treatment that is in your best interest. Ultimately you are the one who matters.