A risk management expert’s top medical spa strategies for enhancing patient safety

June 28, 2024   |   Medical Spa

Popping into your favorite med spa today or hosting a “Tox” party in your home or office can make getting Botox seem no different than getting a manicure –– albeit more expensive. The popularity of medical spa treatments makes it easy to forget they are actual medical treatments that require licensed clinical expertise. 

As an owner, though, as much as making clients feel comfortable matters to the success of a med spa, nothing is more paramount than patient safety.

Consider the outbreak of cases across the U.S. in April 2024 where 15 women reported harmful reactions to botulinum toxin injections, including 11 who were hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fake Botox incident from unlicensed administrators wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last.

Most med spa owners aren’t covertly delivering fake treatments by unlicensed staff, but there are still some patient safety areas to monitor proactively. Brittney Stinnett, BSN, MS, a commercial insurance advisor at HUB International, offers six ways to ensure patients receive safe, reliable treatment at your medical spa.

Conduct comprehensive patient safety assessments

One of the foundational elements of patient safety in med spas is conducting thorough patient assessments. During the initial consultation, it’s essential to gather detailed information about patients’ medical history, allergies, medications and desired outcomes. An assessment helps manage expectations, tailor treatments to individual needs and mitigate potential risks.

Key components of patient assessments

  • Medical history: Understand past medical conditions, surgeries and ongoing treatments.
  • Allergies and medications: Identify any allergies or medications that could interfere with procedures.
  • Desired outcomes: Aligning patient expectations with realistic outcomes ensures satisfaction and safety.

Hire qualified med spa staff and conduct continuous training

It’s the responsibility of the medical spa owner to ensure all staff keep their licenses and certifications up to date. In Jupiter, Florida in 2023, a medical spa owner was arrested for unknowingly allowing a staff member to operate without a license.

Regular training sessions with medical supervision should be conducted to keep the staff updated on the latest techniques and safety protocols. This is especially crucial as you add or change treatment options. Procedure training is essential to ensuring staff have the confidence to perform them independently,” says Stinnett.

Importance of staff training

  • Confidence and competence: Regular training ensures staff are confident and competent in performing procedures.
  • Checklists for procedures: Implement checklists for each procedure to maintain consistency and safety.
  • Emergency response training: Regular drills and training prepare staff to handle emergencies effectively. Emergencies at a med spa are rare, but they are possible. You should have quarterly or even monthly training on procedures to talk about safety and emergency responses,” says Stinnett.

Patient safety practices in different med spa environments

Med spas operate in various environments, including brick-and-mortar facilities and in-home services. Each setting presents unique challenges that must be addressed to ensure patient safety.

Brick-and-mortar facilities

  • Familiar environment: Consistent layout and equipment placement help staff respond quickly in emergencies.
  • Hygiene protocols: Regular cleaning and sterilization of equipment to prevent infections.
  • Emergency equipment: Familiarity with the location and operation of emergency equipment like AEDs and CPR stations.

In-home services

  • Assess surroundings: Evaluate the safety and suitability of the home environment before performing procedures. Your staff should know that it’s okay to leave if the environment isn’t suitable
  • Have a plan for keeping equipment sterile: Ensure all equipment remains sterile and properly maintained outside a controlled environment.
  • Safety protocols: Adapt safety protocols to fit the challenges of in-home services.

Incident reporting and record keeping

Effective incident reporting and meticulous record-keeping are vital to patient safety. Incidents can occur despite the best precautions, and how they are handled can significantly impact patient trust and legal outcomes. “Communicating an accident with your carrier as a report only will not hurt your rates. Taking a proactive approach about any potential issue, even if no claim was filed, demonstrates a commitment to transparency and risk management. This can build trust with the carrier and potentially lead to better coverage or rates in the future,” says Stinnett.

Best practices in case of an incident 

  • Prompt reporting: Incidents should be reported immediately and in detail to ensure timely intervention and resolution.
  • Detailed documentation: Comprehensive details of the incident, including what occurred, how it was handled and any follow-up actions.
  • Communication with insurance: Reporting incidents to insurance agents, even if they do not lead to claims, helps maintain transparency and preparedness.

Leveraging carrier advice and professional associations

As a med spa owner, you should actively engage with your insurance carrier, a healthcare business attorney and professional association to stay updated on best practices and regulatory changes. These organizations can provide valuable resources and support to enhance patient safety.

Role of insurance carriers

  • Risk assessment: Insurance brokers familiar with med spa operations can offer tailored advice to mitigate risks. They typically conduct an on-site risk evaluation, at no cost, to help you reduce patient safety risks.
  • Coverage recommendations: Ensure that insurance policies provide comprehensive coverage for potential liabilities.
  • Proactive support: Your carrier should regularly provide resources and recommendations to enhance safety and reduce risks.

Proactive audits and compliance

Conduct regular audits to ensure patient safety. Audits should cover operations, staff credentials, training, hygiene protocols and emergency preparedness.

Conducting effective audits

  • Regular schedule: Audits should be conducted regularly, not just as once a year. 
  • Comprehensive documentation: Keep detailed records of staff qualifications, training sessions and incident reports.
  • Continuous improvement: Use audit findings to implement improvements and enhance safety protocols.

Patient safety in med spas requires diligent effort from the owners and staff. By adhering to these best practices and leveraging the support of your insurance carrier, med spa owners can create a safe environment that fosters trust and delivers exceptional care.

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