Clarian finds room for luxury: Hospital one of a handful to feature spa treatment

Women giving birth at Clarian North Medical Center now can enjoy a massage, manicure or pedicure before they return home to the sleep-deprived life of caring for a newborn.

These are a few of the services Indianapolis-based Ology will offer when it launches its second hospital spa Jan. 23 at the new Carmel medical center. Ology opened its first more than a year ago inside Avon’s Clarian West Medical Center.

Spa Director Andréa Bradley-Stutz expects the latest location to top the firstyear draw of 3,000 customers at the Clarian West site, as her company expands a concept only a handful of hospitals around the country have even tried.

“We really hope the idea is something that’s well accepted,” she said. “We’re trying to get people to be more proactive about health care, rather than looking at some of these things as a luxury.”

Not everyone shares her enthusiasm, however. Some health care consultants, for instance, question using prime, first-floor hospital space for a business that caters primarily to the community, not to patients.

“I could hear the local ER physician saying, ‘We can’t expand the emergency depart- ment because we need spa space on the first floor,'” said Don Davis, a health care consultant for Chicago-based RSM McGladrey who has studied spas for private investors. “That wouldn’t play well in Peoria, as we say in Illinois.”

Not a problem, according to Clarian officials, who say they put the spas among medical offices to avoid the risk they’ll stand in the way of expansion of health care services.

A natural environment

Ology’s Clarian West site carves a unique profile among the staid medical offices surrounding it. Muslin cloth drapes from the ceiling, and a tangerine scent from an organic air purifier hangs in the air.

Soft music and shelves stocked with organic chocolates and facial treatments greet visitors in the reception area. Customers walk on bamboo and cork flooring to offices decorated in subdued greens and browns.

“We wanted everything to feel very organic, to feel more like a natural environment than a created environment,” Bradley-Stutz said.

Ology offers hydrotherapy, facials, plastic surgery procedures and consultations.

The spa also provides Shirodara, which involves massaging heated oil into the scalp, a procedure that reduces blood pressure and helps some cancer patients cope with their illness, Bradley-Stutz said. Its most popular product, massages, range in price from $45 to $100, depending on length.

It’s the massages that made Fishers resident John Watts a regular. Watts, an avid runner who works on the west side, stops by Clarian West once every six weeks or so.

“I’m not a real foo foo sort of guy,” he said. “It is a beautiful place, and all the accoutrements are nice.

“I’m just into making sure the therapist knows what he or she is doing, and I get a real result from it.”

Ology’s spa at Clarian North will be larger-5,000 square feet, compared with 3,500 square feet-and will offer additional services like the manicures and pedicures.

Bradley-Stutz expects a 25-percent bump in visits to that location, which she notes serves a more “spaconscious” demographic.

A pioneer of sorts

Having one spa, let alone two, puts hospital owner Clarian Health Partners in rare company. Nationwide, only about a dozen hospitals include medical spas.

Consultants say they’re not aware of another in Indiana.

“It takes a long time for the medical profession to embrace non-medical services that can help the patient,” said Hannelore Leavy, founder and executive director of the New Jersey-based International Medical Spa Association.

She said Americans generally regard spa treatments as pampering, while Europeans view them as a form of preventive medicine.

Indianapolis-based Clarian-which also owns Riley Hospital for Children and Methodist and IU hospitals-bought into the concept to create more of a healing environment with its latest hospitals, said Scott Black, executive director of business development.

Clarian wanted the new hospitals to become not just a place to treat an injury or illness but also one that improves the “mind, body and spirit,” Black said.

That fits with growing patient demand for more holistic treatment, said Bill Thompson, a managing partner with the Indianapolis law firm Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman, which specializes in health care.

“The hospitals want to be viewed by their community as full service, and that definition of full service has really expanded over the years,” he said. “It’s not just the treatment of diseases. It’s the promotion of health.”

While Clarian bought into the idea of spas, it had no experience managing them.

Enter Bradley-Stutz and her main business partner, Dr. Barry Eppley, a plastic surgery professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The two, along with six other investors, created Ology to work with Clarian.

Bradley-Stutz said Clarian assumes little risk. Ology rents space from the hospital owner for its two spas and paid all the development costs. In the case of the Clarian North location, that meant pouring in close to a half million dollars.

Because customers pay for the services in cash, not with insurance, the spas do not contribute to rising health care costs, Ology representatives say.

An outside draw

Patients can order services through their doctor, but few did in Ology’s first year at Clarian West, where they made up only 3 percent of the spa’s customers. Hospital employees and community members made up the rest.

It’s not unusual for hospitals to make room for a business that caters to nonpatients, but Clarian’s move into spas raises questions, said Edmund Abel, director of health care services for the Indianapolis-based consulting firm Blue & Co.

“It’s one thing to put a Starbucks in your lobby, it’s another to go into the spa business,” he said, noting that he’s talked to other hospital executives who wonder how the spa helps the hospital’s core business of patient care.

Black and others see plenty of benefits for the Clarian hospitals. Besides the steady rent income, plastic surgeons who consult with spa patients schedule procedures at the hospital, Bradley-Stutz said.

In addition, the spas provide stress relief for hospital employees, said Bradley-Stutz, who also counts several nurses from nearby Hendricks Regional Health among her customers at Clarian West.

Thompson said the spas also serve a marketing tool by attracting customers who may one day return as patients.

“I think hospitals now are really trying to build long-term relationships with their community, and providing spa services might be a competitive edge to doing that,” he said.

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