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Article written by Sharon Roberts, RPh, PharmD, JD., Ms. Roberts is a former State of Florida, Department of Health Inspector, and is now a practicing as healthcare law attorney and pharmacist.

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Beware: Aesthetic Care May Fall Under the Practice of Medicine

By Sharon Roberts, PharmD, RPh, JD

Growing demand for beauty

In response to declining reimbursements, complicated insurance plans, limits on ancillary service coverage, many physicians are turning portions, if not all, of their practice into aesthetic, cash only, businesses. Unfortunately, many physicians are adding these services without realizing they are also potentially adding multiple new statutory requirements to their practice including licensure, facility upgrades and staffing. By failing to recognize the need to comply with the requirements of various Florida laws and rules, physicians are unknowingly creating potentially serious violations that can result in administrative fines, and even possible criminal sanctions against them, their licenses to practice medicine and their staff.

What is aesthetic medicine?

Aesthetic physician practices are often couched under the title of a medspa, dayspa, laser hair removal center, aesthetic beauty center, cosmetic surgery center, etc. These practices range from specialty boarded physician owned medical practices to mall medspas that are operating without any physician or any licensure at all. You cannot turn a corner these days without seeing one of these new entities in strip malls or in office buildings. Potential customers are not the only ones seeing these new facilities popping up everywhere. The Board of Medicine, as well as other State regulatory boards, are also taking notice.

Action by the Board of Medicine

The Board of Medicine considers these new aesthetic medicine businesses a “huge” issue. One of the ways the Department of Health can deal with these entities is to send Unlicensed Activity Investigators undercover into the field to “patronize” these companies. They then investigate and prosecute any unlicensed activity they find. The Board also identifies these practices through patient complaints filed with the Board by patients who experience bad outcomes. Finally, med spas that are properly licensed often file complaints with the government on their unlicensed competitors.

Many questions arise for the Boards and Councils handling this multi-professional practice model, including:

  • Which Board or Council governs imposition of the rules regulating a medical spa practice? Medicine, Electrology, Cosmetology?
  • What is a medical spa?
  • Who can use lasers for treatments and under what level of supervision?
  • What is a medical facial versus a facial that must be done by a cosmetologist?
  • What Board imposes sanctions on practitioners in these facilities?

The answers to these questions vary and any member of the Board of Medicine, Electrology Council and Cosmetology Board will tell you they are being inundated by “how to” questions regarding the practice of aesthetic medicine.

For all medical practitioners who find themselves part of an aesthetic medical practice or are contemplating opening a practice of their own, beware, not all aesthetic care falls under the practice of medicine. Most of the aesthetic medicine practices and med spas are operating under the radar of the various Boards right now, however, the time is coming when the Boards will get coordinated and reach out with their heavy regulatory hand. Don’t get caught by the surprise inspection and find yourself charged with practicing without a proper permit for yourself, your staff or your facility.

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Sharon Roberts
R.Ph., Pharm.D., J.D.
"Of Counsel"

Compliance is my business
Certified Designated Representative

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