Sally-Anne Whybrow of Healthcare Finance for Siemens Financial Services in the UK, examines how smart finance is helping meet customer demand in the growing aesthetic surgery sector

An ever-increasing number of women and men are making the decision to undergo aesthetic (or plastic) surgery. In 2015 a record number of over 51,000 Britons underwent plastic surgery with breast augmentation being the most popular for women and eyelid and facial surgery for men1. A recent fluctuation in 2016 saw plastic surgery procedure totals for women and men combined dipping to below 31,0002. Nevertheless, the industry remains buoyant with enquiries to plastic surgery clinics for less invasive procedures, such as mini-facelifts up 589% in the last three months of 20163.

The plastic surgery sector needs to be ready and equipped to respond to the latest trends and fashions.  Breast augmentation, for example, continues to be the most popular procedure for women (7,732 procedures in 2016)2.

There has been a significant rise, however, in enquiries regarding vaginoplasty and rhinoplasty operations3; which some experts believe is linked to publicity surrounding celebrities who have openly undergone these procedures. Increasingly, plastic surgeons are also seeing a trend towards less aggressive and less invasive procedures that can be carried out more quickly, often without the need for an overnight hospital stay3.

Advances in technology now mean there is a host of options for innovative plastic surgeons and clinics, such as micro-surgery, leaving minimal or no visible scarring; computer-assisted imaging that improves accuracy and efficiency4, and 3D printing that allows patients to see a model of the results their procedure will achieve5. 3D printing is also being used in reconstructive procedures allowing pioneering surgery to create replica body parts6.

Financing growth

Plastic surgery is still a relatively small specialty, but the number of consultant posts has doubled in the last 20 years7,  and there are now more than 1,000 plastic surgery clinics in the UK3. As the market continues to grow, clinics need to remain competitive and this means offering the very latest techniques and using state-of-the-art technology.

It can, however, be difficult for some clinic owners to finance growth and investment in surgical resources. Keeping pace with technological advancements requires considerable capital expenditure, which clinics may struggle to achieve. Against this background, acquiring the latest plastic surgery technology may seem out of reach for many providers. In many instances, the plastic surgery sector is caught in a predicament where budget limitations are hampering the ability to make essential investments that play a key role in increasing the range, productivity, and efficiency of services. To this end, asset financing techniques, such as leasing, are emerging as an increasingly popular, cost-effective investment-enabler.

Such financing techniques spread the cost of the equipment over an agreed financing period, with regular finance payments arranged to align with the expected efficiency gains and income streams enabled by the use of the latest technology. This removes the need for a large initial capital outlay and enables immediate access to up-to-date equipment despite tight budgets. Plastic surgery clinics can thereby deploy precious funds in other areas, for example, to improve service quality, such as staff development and marketing. Financing arrangements can potentially also cover other costs such as equipment installation, as well as introduce the flexibility of future technology upgrades in line with technological developments.

Flexible finance

Tailored, all-encompassing financing packages tend to be offered by specialist healthcare financiers who have an in-depth understanding of production technology and its applications. They understand the profound impact up-to-date technology can bring to the daily operation and can expertly evaluate any associated risks. They are, therefore, more capable of creating customised financing packages that fit the specific requirements of a plastic surgery establishment — for instance, flexing the financing period to suit the organisation’s cash flow. This contrasts with the standard financing terms usually available from generalist financiers who often lack a thorough understanding of the plastic surgery sector as well as technical expertise.

As the plastic surgery sector grows and becomes crowded, clinics need to find new ways to stay competitive and meet the needs of their customers by embracing all that new technology has to offer. Alternative financing is an increasingly popular way for clinics to invest in the latest technology to grow their business and offer their customers the results they want.