Dr. Michael Ehrenreich, the prime mover of SOMA Skin and Laser in Millburn, New Jersey.
Though most people know him now as a dermatologist, Dr. Ehrenreich has a broad range of dermatological interests: medical dermatology, cutaneous surgery, laser surgery, cosmetic dermatology. He is also a noted authority in tissue engineering.
Dr. Ehrenreich began his career as an investment banker. His background proves to be a critical element to the success of his practice.
Name: Michael Ehrenreich, MD, FAAD
Clinic: SOMA Skin & Laser
Location: Millburn, NJ
You have a very interesting career path as you hold a BS in finance, aside from having a medical degree. Can you tell us more?
Prior to attending medical school, I was an investment banker, so I have a strong business background. A business background is certainly helpful if you want to start and operate a practice. Although physician’s work to help people, medicine is also a business. And like any other business, it’s hard to succeed at it without some business skills. Medicine is moving away from the sole practitioner model. More and more, physicians operate as groups or as part of hospitals where professional managers are employed.
How is your clinic organized? Is there anything that is unconventional or uncommon from the average clinic in any way?
We have a strong focus on customer service. In dermatology, patients have a lot of choices. It’s not like going to the emergency department with chest pain. We model ourselves on world class service organizations.
One word to describe your work:
How has the economy affected you? What changes (if any) have you made?
We are seeing more elective cosmetics this year than a year or two ago. The economy definitely is improving in this regard. However, as a full-service dermatology practice, we also see many medical patients. For this reason we are not entirely reliant on cosmetic patients and discretionary income.
What stories do you have about hiring/firing? How do you compensate your staff?
Always do a background check and check references. Staff receive a base salary and are eligible for annual bonuses. The esthetic staff get paid a percentage of the procedures.
How successful are you marketing efforts? What have you found that works?
The more you have the more you get. We rely a lot on patient referrals. We also do a lot of direct marketing in the form of direct mail and Google ads. On Google ads you need to be careful not to pay too much for a click or you can get patients, but end up losing money on your ad campaigns. We also get patients from insurance directories and from referrals from other doctors.
You’re using several lasers in your practice such as Vbeam, RevLite, Deka SmartXide Dot or GentleMAX lasers. How did you decide on that technology? What completed your buying decision? (Please disclose if you have any relationships with the manufacturers.)
I have no relationship with any of the manufacturers. For each laser category that I felt that I needed, I researched the available manufacturers and requested demos. Some companies are more willing than others to bring a laser into your office and let you do a few cases.
I would not purchase any laser that I had not used personally and had good results with.
Have you ever had any experiences with technologies that you felt were oversold, either to the physician or to the patient?
We use NexTech for EMR and Practice management. Overall we are happy with it, as it is very dermatology specific. All EMRs have their pros and cons, but I think this one is pretty good on balance.
For medical technology, I am satisfied with all of the lasers that I have purchased. I only buy devices with a good history and that I have had first-hand experience with. I have been looking at the body sculpting technologies out there and I have not yet made a purchase in this category... I haven’t yet found one that I am satisfied with yet.
Are there any treatments or technologies that you're especially excited about that haven't hit the market yet?
I am not the kind of practitioner that buys what’s hot the first day it’s on the market. Devices come and go. I usually wait and see if something really works before I adopt it. There’s nothing on the horizon that I am particularly waiting on.
At the time you started your clinic, you were also Chief of Dermatology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. How did you manage your time?
I am no longer serving as Chief of Dermatology at Newark Beth. I still go in when needed for important consults, but I found that I did not have enough time to be Chief and run my practice.
What advice would you give to other dermatologists about the new cosmetic technologies?
Don’t rush to adopt new technology just because there is a lot of hype or media. Convince yourself personally that a device works. It’s nice to check with peers, but there’s no substitute for using a device on your own patients. If they won’t bring in the device for a trial, or for enough trials for you to make an informed decision, then don’t buy it, even if there’s a lot of hype. Do your own ROI calculations and don’t rely on the projections made by the companies. You need to know how a new device will fit in with your patient population and project how many procedures you are likely to do. Also, you need to determine if you really need the device. Maybe you already have a device in your practice that can accomplish what you want, or maybe there is a better procedure to be doing for the patient.
What do you think that you do better than most other physicians that helps you to succeed?
I have the right equipment available for the right job. Even if each piece of equipment isn’t necessarily profitable, I feel that I need to be able to offer patients what they came for. On the whole it balances out. I treat patients fairly in terms of pricing and try to set the price in proportion to the benefit of the procedure and the physician/practice work involved. I think that people should get what they pay for. We pay attention to the patient experience and keep in mind that they drove to see us, waited to see us, paid money to see us, and deserve the best that we have to offer.
What's the best advice you've ever received as an entrepreneur and as a physician?
I haven’t received much in the way of advice from people, but when I was young I was reading Warren Buffet’s annual report and he noted in his homespun way that the first thing to do when you find your self in a hole is to stop digging. I’ve modified this into my fundamental rule of business. You’ve got to know if you’re in a hole or a tunnel. If you think you’re in a hole stop digging. If you think your in a tunnel keep digging. The art is telling them apart.
About: Dr. Michael Ehrenreich is the Medical Director of SOMA Skin & Laser. He attended Medical School at University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, where he was nominated to alpha omega alpha, the medical honors society. Dr. Michael Ehrenreich completed his internship at St. Barnabas Medical Center, and his residency in dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Ehrenreich holds an MA in biological sciences from Columbia University and a BS in finance from Yeshiva University. Dr. Michael Ehrenreich is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology, and a member of the American Society for Dermatological Surgery and the American Society for Mohs Surgery. His interests include medical dermatology, cutaneous surgery, laser surgery, and cosmetic dermatology.