Those who visit a medical spa in Connecticut for Botox, hair transplants or other cosmetic procedures can be assured they will see a licensed medical professional there, which hasn’t always been the case.
Previously, consumers complained that med-spa procedures were sometimes performed by unlicensed providers, but a recently enacted state law has placed stricter requirements on the businesses.
The law, which took effect Oct. 1, requires all medical spas to employ – either on staff or by contracting for services – a physician, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). It also mandates that one of those medical professionals perform an initial physical assessment of every med-spa client before any procedure is done.
The law will also put an end to certain practices such as in-home “Botox” parties where people gather at a friend’s house over drinks for the wrinkle-filling injections. “That’s critical,’’ said Ken Ferrucci, senior vice president of government affairs for the Connecticut State Medical Society.
Med spas offer cosmetic services such as hair transplants, dermabrasion, chemical peels and cosmetic fillers such as Botox, among others.
Before the law, some med-spa clients complained to state health officials that cosmetic procedures clients received were performed by unlicensed personnel, said William Gerrish, Connecticut Department of Public Health spokesman.
“Periodically, we have received complaints,” he said, though he could not say how many. There have been no complaints in the month since the new law took effect, he added.
Some med spas had already met the stricter standards, but the new law has prompted others to hire additional staff.
An employee answering the phone at Glastonbury’s MedSpa 1064 said the company previously employed licensed practical nurses who did some procedures but has hired APRNs to comply with the law. The company’s owner did not return a call seeking comment.
At Dolce Vida Medical Spa, which has locations in Hamden and Shelton, an employee who answered the phone said the company’s owner is a physician’s assistant. The owner did not return a call seeking comment.
As med spas have become popular in recent years, there has been some confusion about how “medical” they really are, according to state Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Orange, a co-sponsor of the legislation.
“There’s always that question about if they’re crossing the line,” Klarides said. “It’s always been kind of a gray area. It was a question that was consistently brought up.”
Gerrish said it is difficult to gauge how many med spas there are in the state.
Lawmakers first sought to pass a similar bill in 2013 but some within the medical community resisted, Klarides said. The 2013 version of the legislation required that a physician with a medical doctor degree be on staff or under contract at every med spa, she said. But some doctors pushed back, arguing that was unnecessary since nurses or physician’s assistants can safely perform procedures such as Botox.
Last year’s version of the bill was shot down, and this year’s version added the option of having an APRN or physician’s assistant as the med spa’s medical provider.
“The only thing I care about is patient safety. I think we found a nice middle ground,” Klarides said. “This year, everybody seems to be happy.”
The law says any physician, physician’s assistant or APRN employed by a medical spa must be licensed in Connecticut, be actively practicing in the state, have experience performing the procedures, and be educated or trained in cosmetic medical procedures by a higher education institution or professional organization.
It also prohibits anyone from performing procedures outside his or her scope of practice. The spas must provide to customers written notice of the names and the specialties of all medical providers.
The Connecticut State Medical Society was involved in discussions that crafted the legislation but had hoped the bill would go a bit further, Ferrucci said.
“We were very interested in ensuring that all of these facilities had a physician as their medical director,” he said, which ultimately didn’t happen.
Still, Ferrucci said, “there are benefits to the bill. It took steps in the right direction,” such as the ban on in-home Botox parties.
The trade group that represents med-spa owners nationwide supports the stricter standards.
“A general lack of clarity seems to exist with many of the state boards regarding what medical spas can and cannot do, which often leads to issues of consumer safety and unnecessary litigation,” said Alex Thiersch, founder of the American Med Spa Association. “Because of this, the American Med Spa Association applauds and supports the effort Connecticut is making to establish specific rules and regulations for the operation of medical spas.”
Connecticut isn’t the only state taking a closer look at medical spas to ensure patient safety. In the past couple of years states including Washington, Missouri and California also have beefed up laws or regulations pertaining to the industry.