A patient recently came to see me for adrenal issues, and when I asked her who originally diagnosed her, she told me that she had gone to a “Med-Spa” for a facial and happened to mention various clinical symptoms to the owner of the spa. The spa owner, lo-and-behold, happened to be an endocrinologist (!) and recommended that she get some lab tests checked and diagnosed her with an adrenal issue. Due to some insurance/costs issues, the patient ended up coming to see me. My thoughts while listening to this story: “Really? What kind of endocrinologist owns a health spa?!”
Of course, I did what any normal person would do, I got on Google and found that this physician is indeed a board-certified endocrinologist who specializes in “anti-aging and rejuvenation through nutrition and fitness”, complete with appointments for facial peels, laser hair removal options and detoxification protocols.
Some months ago, I met with a patient who told me of a family medicine physician who touted a special diet and in fact, had so much success with his own personal weight loss that he started prescribing it for his patients and even offered a series of “physician-approved” cooking classes to the public as a nutrition/weight loss plan.
As I thought about these two physicians and their “side businesses”, I was very impressed by their savviness. Later that day, a casual joking conversation with my husband and my sister about potential business ventures in which my sister would be in charge of the business/aesthetic aspect, while I handled the clinical issues grew more and more animated as we dreamt about how women could get their one-stop-check-up, get examined by a physician, lab tests checked, counseled on fitness/nutrition, and get a luxurious massage/facial/mani-pedi all at the same time. We could even invest in an acupuncturist or a tai-chi expert and try to target patients who were especially interested in Eastern alternative medicine. The more we talked and joked, the more we realized what a potential profitable market this could be. At the end of a 30 minute conversation about this topic, I paused and said, “But you know what though? This whole time I’ve been talking about how to make more money and who to market to, etc, but not once have I actually mentioned how this would truly help a patient. I feel kind of sleazy even thinking about it as a business scheme.”
My thoughts returned to those two physicians that my patients had mentioned to me. I wonder what their original motivations were in establishing a med-spa, or offering cooking class. Did they think about it as a way to help their patients? or was it merely just a nice way to supplement their salaries while pursuing a personal hobby? And even if it was all about money, why would it be so bad to want to make more money? After all, isn’t that the goal of all business-owners? Is it wrong to question the credibility of a physician just because they happen to be more business-minded?