As children we were all encouraged to save a few pennies in our Piggy Banks, now a clinic in America is encouraging its clients to save their hard earned cash in a virtual Botox Bank; so what’s it all about?
The company in New York claim that their new scheme allows customers to buy virtual vials of Botox® through TheBotoxBank™ (www.TheBotoxBank.com) in order to save money by taking advantage of volume discounts.
Customers can purchase a desired quantity of ‘virtual vials’ and fill up their online ‘piggy’ bank, the more virtual vials they buy the cheaper the real Botox® vials, and ultimately the units used in treatment become. Then, upon visiting the clinic, the number of units used is deducted from the account and the balance remains for future treatments with the discounted price already secured. A $50 injection fee is also charged per treatment visit to cover practitioner time.
In the UK, the custom is to buy your Botox® (or other brands of botulinum toxins) by fixed price areas. This is generally split into three areas or regions of the face, namely the forehead, the glabellar (frown lines) and the crow’s feet. Other regions and condition based treatments are priced on consultation. In general, different areas may be priced differently, or discounts given according to the more areas that are included in the treatment session. Some clinics will also charge a premium on top of these prices for male patients, as men tend to require more units to achieve a good result compared to women due to their stronger facial musculature. By pricing by treated area it is felt that the best result can be achieved using the optimum dosage per individual without the pressure of every unit being an additional cost, both to the patient and the practitioner.
During a survey of consumer prices, conducted by The Consulting Room™ in July 2009, we found that the average UK prices for Botox® treatment were £204 for one area, £278 for two areas and £339 for three. In general the premium for men added an additional £30 - £35 to these averages.
By contrast in the US, the custom is to work in units used in treating a patient, as every individual is different in their tolerance and every area equally so, hence the more you use, the more you pay is the American way.
Thus the unit price of toxins offered in America is all important, and this is how treatment deals are promoted across the pond with adverts such as ‘$10 a unit’ used to lure clients into a clinic. Of course, in the UK, direct promotion of botulinum toxins to the public in this way is prohibited due to the regulations governing prescription only medicines, which do not apply in America so any special offer deals are not obviously publicised by providers.
No one that I spoke to really knows why the two countries have adopted such differing pricing strategies for botulinum toxin treatments, but it could be argued that there are many pros and cons to each type of cost structure from the patient perspective.
The creator of the U.S. scheme, Dr. Berdy claims that it addresses the financial needs of many different types of patients that he encounters. For example, those who normally ‘shop’ for treatment by price alone and may therefore be tempted to seek out a different clinic and/or practitioner every six months based on who is offering the cheapest current deal, thus leading to inconsistencies in treatment and achieved results.
The UK system of charging leaves patients open to this problem when clinics offer deals such as ‘£99 per area’ where it is well known within the industry that this leads to patients being massively under dosed. One company we know of where this was in practice, the practitioners were not allowed to inject more than 15 units for such an offer to be profitable! (Typically a dose for treating frown lines (glabellar) with Botox®/ Vistabel® would be in the region of 20 – 40 units depending on the individual patient and their gender.)
Then there are those Dr. Berdy terms as the ‘frequent flyers’ who maintain their treatment to a strict schedule and wouldn’t dare let it slip for a month or two, who are looking for some kind of loyalty reward for their spend at a particular clinic.
And finally, those who despite paying by the area treated (as also practiced by some U.S. clinics) don’t actually seem to need as many units as most people, and who therefore may feel (if they are informed of this fact!) that they are perhaps overpaying compared to the majority of patients who require the ‘per area’ prescribed amount for a good outcome and so are looking to make a ‘per unit’ saving for their reduced need which would be available to them through such American pricing schemes.
Despite the lack of direct marketing of such a scheme as a ‘Botox Bank’ – is there anything to stop UK practitioners extending such loyalty offers to their existing client base or do we even need it?