Though surgical options remain a gold standard in many aesthetic cases, the energy-based body shaping industry has experienced substantial growth in recent years. The latest generation of less invasive technologies and products has shown considerable improvement over past iterations, with improved patient safety, efficacious outcomes, reduced treatment and recovery time, as well as less pain. Minimally or non-invasive contouring treatments attract patients that are fearful of surgery, or have tried, but failed to remove unwanted localized fat. In addition, these procedures appeal to both core and non-core physicians.
According to the recently published Global Aesthetic Market Study XV from Medical Insight, Inc. (Irvine, Calif.), the worldwide market for all body shaping, skin tightening and cellulite reduction equipment and procedures continues to rise. Through 2021 global sales of platforms, excluding disposables, will increase by 12.1% per year, on average and sales of disposables are expected to grow by a strong 19.5% per year as procedure volume expands.
While the overall market is enjoying strong growth, the economics of adding and maintaining energy-based body shaping devices in practice can be a challenge for physicians. Many physicians find themselves overwhelmed by the necessity to first understand the technologies involved – from lasers and radiofrequency (RF) to ultrasound-based solutions and radial shockwaves – and then the business of adopting these systems into their practices, including making a quality purchase or lease, ease of transition to a new device, and other issues that are not taught in medical school.
According to Gordon H. Sasaki, M.D., F.A.C.S., a plastic surgeon and researcher in Pasadena, Calif., “quick fix elective non-surgical and minimally invasive procedures meet the needs of a very educated, active population. “These patients frequently require procedures that are natural looking at an acceptable price with minimal downtime,” he pointed out.
“Treatments have become more comfortable over time and most energy-based devices now have improved patient safety features,” stated J.D. McCoy, N.M.D., an aesthetic practitioner in Gilbert, Ariz. “More importantly, ease of use of these devices has improved. The reality is that most of these treatments should be delegated when possible. This means we want the procedures to be easily reproducible, so that when you transfer responsibility the operator and patient can expect consistent results.”
Like many surgeons looking to differentiate their practice with energy-based body contouring, Diane Duncan, M.D., F.A.C.S., a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Fort Collins, Colo., wanted to invest in something that could shrink soft tissue and skin non-surgically. “In particular, a non-invasive system that actually works without burning a hole in the practice’s wallet,” she said.
After much research she incorporated two systems into her practice. The first was BodyTite from Inmode (Richmond Hill, Ontario Canada), which utilizes patented radiofrequency (RF)-assisted liposuction (RFAL™) technology for body contouring and skin contraction. The second is the Thermi® platform from Thermi, an Almirall Company (Irving, Texas), which delivers temperature controlled RF-based energy for both microsurgical and non-surgical aesthetic applications in soft tissue and nerves. “With these two systems I can offer my patients really outstanding results,” she noted.
When first starting out in aesthetics, many physicians adopt systems that are designed primarily for facial work, Dr. McCoy noted, “But then they quickly realize that patients not only want to treat their face, but almost every single person has something on their body that they’d like to improve. And they demand relatively low discomfort so they can get back to their daily life and activities soon after they engage in treatment.”
Physicians would be wise to employ a checklist of concerns and questions when determining the best system for their practice, stated Jay A. Shorr, B.A., M.B.M.-C., founder of Shorr Solutions, a Florida-based medical practice consulting firm.
“For instance, decide whom on the staff can operate the device and what are the stated rules regarding levels of authority,” Mr. Shorr elaborated. “With a specific device, how long do the results last versus other modalities? What type of support will you get from the manufacturer, in terms of marketing support and warranty? Is there another upgrade right around the corner and is that included with a maintenance plan?”