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Spas Get Serious: Wellness

By: Sara Mason
Posted: June 9, 2008, from the June 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The Internet is a primary driver; the free exchange of information allows people to take control of their care. However, people need to be more discerning about what they read online, and companies need to be ethical about what they are posting. It is increasingly difficult for consumers to distinguish marketing hype from real health information. In turn, physicians have been forced by these “empowered patients” back into the original role of teacher. “Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when insurance pressures are requiring doctors to spend less time with each patient,” says Goldman. Concierge medicine, such as market leader MDVIP (, and fee-for-service options are allowing physicians to see fewer patients while providing more intensive, personal care.

Changing Focus

The medical spa boom also has provided physicians with opportunities to change focus from treating disease to providing preventive health and wellness. Physicians lend credibility to the spa environment, taking it out of the realm of vanity to a site for medical care. Some physicians feel that their colleagues are selling themselves out, but others feel they are finally able to get serious about health care—finding the true value in long-term self-care. “Doctors are being forced to reckon with things they used to consider out of their scope,” says Goldman. “Now, a new crop of doctors who are culturally inclined toward alternative ideas are looking at integrated medicine more seriously.”

Out of a desire to do more for her patients, Grace Keenan, MD, founder of Nova Medical, expanded her Ashburn, Virginia-based internal medicine practice by adding a spa. Now expanded to four locations, Nova and The Medical Spa at Nova feature a tremendous amount of integration so she can offer clients a range of services—not because alternative therapies always are the best treatments, but because they are sometimes just what the patient needs.

“Health care is overly reliant on prescription drugs and surgeries,” says Keenan. “But if it’s going to help a person, doesn’t a warm soak with therapeutic essential oil, instead of popping an anxiety pill, just make sense?” Keenan has had great success in motivating people to help themselves and be proactive in their wellness. “We need to stop and think about what we are doing. We need to provide the best care possible, whether it’s working with a dietitian, providing acupuncture, massage therapy, or prescribing medicine,” she says.