With a rise in wellness, practitioners advise how you can successfully integrate suitable services into your practice
Wellness is defined as the act of practising healthy habits on a regular basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes.1 According to research by the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry is valued at US $4.5 trillion and is continuing to grow at a historic rate,2 so it’s no surprise that it has recently become a bit of a buzzword in aesthetic medicine. Rather than just offering quick injectable treatments in one area, clinics and practitioners have started to move towards a more holistic approach of treating the whole body – and the mind!
This is because, according to aesthetic practitioner Dr Nestor Demosthenous, people are now beginning to understand the differences that small changes can make to overall health. He notes, “Many aesthetic clinics today go beyond aesthetics. With greater understanding and a lot more resources, we are aware that we are making positive differences to a patient’s quality of life. Often people think they are healthy merely due to absence of disease. They do not realise they can be better by making consistent, sustainable changes in lifestyle and habits, safeguarding themselves for the future. This isn’t usually what they come in with the intention of asking us about, but it is what we can now offer.”
Aesthetic practitioner Dr Mayoni Gooneratne agrees, noting that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has kicked off a wellness phenomenon. She says, “As a doctor my passion has always been to help people. Particularly after COVID-19 I think people started realising a lot more about their health and how one thing can really impact another, as well as how important it is to stay healthy. I found that this was something that kept getting spoken about in my consultations. In our role as medical professionals I find that people really open up to us about how they are feeling, and so wellness was something that was particularly brought to my attention.”
Aesthetic practitioner Dr Natalie Geary has also noticed how important wellness is for getting people back to normal following the pandemic. She notes, “We’re in a COVID-19 hangover right now – everyone is quite sluggish and a lot of people are struggling to return to normal life after gaining weight or having mental health problems. While wellness has been at the forefront of my mind for some time, I think this is the perfect moment to get other people to think more about their health or their lifestyle. It’s the best time to embrace wellness, and proper long-term plans rather than quick fixes.”
So, if wellness is something you’ve become interested in and you feel like you’re ready to make that progression and start to integrate it into your practice, how do you make that first step?
Dr Gooneratne notes that to get started on her clinic’s wellness journey she undertook extra learning and education. She comments, “I completed my functional medicine diploma, and I’m currently also doing my lifestyle medicine diploma. This is a branch of medicine growing in popularity across the world because of its highly successful results in tackling a range of health problems through the application of environmental, behavioural, medical and motivational principles. I believe there is so much to learn, and doing so has been able to give me a really good handle of how to see a person as a whole, and how one aspect of them may impact another.”
As part of her wellness services, Dr Gooneratne’s clinic now offers two separate programmes: Skin Fit and Human Health. She explains, “Skin Fit is purely aesthetic, where we see people for treatments addressing their physical appearance – this can be face or body. Instead, Human Health uses an evidence-based medical approach using lifestyle medicine.”
“Wellness isn’t as profitable as general aesthetics, BUT you are more likely to have an incredibly loyal patient base”
Dr Mayoni Gooneratne
Dr Gooneratne explains that people will come to her clinic for a one-hour consultation and she will do a deep dive into their lifestyle and history. She comments, “I go right back to when they were born and that gives us a whole overview of them, which enables me to make a plan and sign them up to one of our packages. This incorporates many elements, such as seeing a functionalist specialist nurse or having group sessions with others. There are six pillars of human health: nutrition, sleep, movement, stress management, toxic substances, and relationships. So, we aim to address all of these throughout their time on the programme by working intensively with us. It will depend on each person of course, as not everyone needs the same thing.”
Dr Geary notes that her interest in wellness is innate, and that the inclusion in her practice was a gradual progression after also undertaking some educational courses. She comments, “I’ve had an interest in functional medicine for the past seven years, since I started taking courses in the US”. Although I wanted to bring it back to my clinic straight away, the testing was prohibitively expensive because most of it had to be sent back to America as we did not have those resources here in the UK at the time. I kept going to these courses anyway as I just found it so interesting and I enjoyed educating myself – I think it’s important to know we can be healthier by making certain uncomplicated changes, and taking these courses are so important in learning more about the wellness side of things before you put anything into action.”
The opportunity for her to set a programme up in her clinic only arose six months ago, once she had found the right devices and elements. Dr Geary has recently launched her weight loss programme named Dr Go Figure. This incorporates nutrition, exercise, supplements, in-house personal training and electrical muscle stimulating devices that help with fat loss and weight management.
Dr Demosthenous explains that he started out in wellness through a natural career progression. He comments, “Over the years I found that my consultations were getting longer and longer. I was naturally delving into a patient’s motives for treatment, their psychological core. We were discussing sleep patterns, nutrition and overall health, not just documenting their medical history. It became apparent that all of this matters, even when you are performing cosmetic and rejuvenation treatments, and it’s a large problem for some people. I find that one of the most common reasons for treatment is to look as energetic and youthful as people feel on the inside. Many strive to look and feel better. I therefore felt it was important to start incorporating lifestyle medicine into my clinic.”
Dr Demosthenous now offers both women’s health and men’s health services, which include skin health, hair health, intimate health and menopause health. He explains, “We are keen to help patients flourish, and this means actively discussing nutrition, sleep, managing stress, and exercise.”
All three practitioners interviewed enlisted the help of external services in order to provide the best wellness options to their patients. Dr Demosthenous explains, “I think it’s very important to bring in professionals with drive and ambition and a genuine passion for a subspecialty. While, as a doctor, I CAN carry out many procedures, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I SHOULD. I introduced a lifestyle medicine doctor into my clinic who is better qualified to offer meaningful advice to help improve patients’ health than myself. I have also recently set up a wellness retreat incorporating exercise, yoga, mindfulness and education on good nutrition. Here, there are two lifestyle medicine doctors, a team of personal trainers, yogis and a wonderful plant-based chef.” He explains he found the right team as a result of his own personal journey into wellness, noting, “Lifestyle medicine and overall wellness is something both my team and myself have incorporated into our own lives. Through this we have identified great people and therefore built a network of like-minded individuals.”
“The enthusiasm you have about wellness will spread to your patients – if you don’t believe in what you’re doing then neither will they”
Dr Nestor Demosthenous
Dr Gooneratne also uses external help, employing a weight management coach, a personal trainer, a life coach, an acupuncturist, a functional health specialist and a physiotherapist. When enlisting the services of others, Dr Gooneratne advises starting small and taking the time to research your local area. She says, “You could just begin by doing cross referrals – for example speaking to your local gym. Maybe for every patient you send their way they give you a small percentage of profit. Then, you can start growing this out further if it’s successful and you’re finding a lot of people are interested.”
She also advises that to begin a good partnership with someone, it’s important to ensure your brand is reflecting your ethos. “Be wary of what you’re posting online,” she says, “If you’re only posting images of big lips, then a nutritionist isn’t likely to want to work with you. They want people who align with their own values, just like we do! So take care with how you present yourself, and if health and wellness is something you’re truly passionate about then it needs to come across.”
Dr Geary has an online personal trainer and a nutritionist as part of her team, and notes that she makes use of her local community as well as using the aesthetics network to find the right people to partner with. She explains, “The thing about all aesthetic practitioners is that we have a great network, not only with each other but with who we treat – the diversity of our patients is huge. So the main thing is just to speak to people and find out who’s doing a good job and who people have had positive results with – if you want knowledge, you have to ask for it! Our patient base is our greatest resource to swap ideas, so I found everyone that I’ve hired through my own network.”
Dr Gooneratne believes the best thing about offering wellness services is seeing the difference it makes to her patients’ lives. She explains, “I love it because we are helping people literally be the best they can be inside out, and it’s really rewarding. It’s about creating really bespoke journeys that can last for a year or so. Doing transformations and seeing people change their lives is just incredible.”
Dr Geary agrees, noting that seeing the impact she has on patient confidence is the most gratifying thing for her. “I’ve noticed that after COVID-19 a lot of my older female patients have really struggled to get back out there again and get their lives back on track. Our wellness services have helped them to get their energy levels back and help them feel like themselves again,” she says.
As well as being beneficial for your patients, Dr Demosthenous explains that wellness services can help build patient trust and create good relationships, therefore helping your business. He notes, “While measuring an end point is difficult, anecdotally, our patients seem happier, more content and more active. As well as this, we find that they are engaging regularly with services in the clinic, come back for more regular treatments and appointments, and also refer their friends and family in to see us. I think it helps them to feel like someone really cares about them, rather than just someone doing a treatment for money.”
While you might be certain you want to add wellness services to your clinic offering, it isn’t just as simple as making the decision and getting started straight away, explains Dr Gooneratne. “For certain things you need to be registered with the Care Quality Commission, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Care Inspectorate Wales or the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, for example doing blood tests,” she says. “You also need to get your team trained up to talk to medical patients in a way that is respectful – medical treatments are a lot more sensitive than a facial for example. You must ensure you actually have the capacity to deliver what you’re promising – I would never introduce services that I don’t think we can really carry out, so you should always wait to add different elements and make sure you have the right team and the right knowledge before doing so,” she adds.
Dr Gooneratne also advises to ensure there is actually a demand for services in your area before deciding to go ahead with implementing anything. She says, “Always market your area first – I would recommend that you start by asking your 10 best and most regular patients ‘if I could add a service for you, what would that be?’ If a lot of them have the same answer, it’s something for you to look into, but there’s no point adding something when there is no demand for it. If you do find there is a market for it then great, go and do the training!”
Dr Geary notes that practitioners also need to cut down on what they invest in and look at what would most benefit their patient base, rather than trying to have a bit of everything on the market. She explains, “For example, I’m still sorting out what supplements I want to use in my programme, and it’s been a long process because I actually think you only need a few. You need to research everything and find out what’s going to be the most appropriate universally – we’re creating programmes that need to be beneficial for as many people as possible. Ask yourself the question: ‘what are most people in need of when they age?’ and then go from there!”
All practitioners interviewed note that while wellness services can be beneficial, clinics should only add them if they have a true interest in health and wellbeing. Dr Demosthenous explains, “It really has to be born out of true passion for living a better, healthier life. The enthusiasm you have will then spread to your patients – if you don’t believe in what you’re doing then neither will they.”
Dr Gooneratne adds that you need to consider what the most important thing for you is – are you the kind of person who isn’t bothered about a mass return of investment? She explains, “Typically, wellness isn’t as profitable as general aesthetics, BUT you are more likely to have an incredibly loyal patient base. Don’t do it because you think everyone else is doing it and because it’s the latest popular thing, or you’re worried about the competition. Do it because you’re truly passionate about helping people and making them feel better. It takes a lot of drive, and it takes a lot of energy away from everything else that you’re doing while you set it up, so you need to be absolutely sure it’s what you want to invest yourself in.”
Dr Geary concludes that before you add any extra services, you should work out what it is you enjoy doing the most. “People have different passions in aesthetics and that’s why our industry is so amazing,” she says, adding, “We have people who are great at body sculpting, we have people who are great at injectables, we have people who are great at wellness. Personally, I love optimising health and so it’s natural for me to run wellness programmes, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. The best piece of advice I can give people is just to do what you love.”
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