Katie Garcia lay on a narrow bed with a needle in her arm and intravenous fluids dripping slowly into her bloodstream.
Garcia wasn’t in a hospital or medical clinic, and she wasn’t sick. She was in the small room inside a martial arts studio where she works as a massage therapist, getting an infusion of vitamins and minerals on Thursday.
“Now is kind of a good time with the weather changing and crap going around,” Garcia said, “and me being a massage therapist and touching people all day.”
Garcia’s infusion was performed by Meredith Leach Snyder, a doctor and co-owner of Recovery Hydration Therapy, one of a few mobile IV companies that have cropped up around Kansas City since 2016.
The business of selling IV services on demand started in Las Vegas in 2012, mostly as a treatment for hangovers, but also for people like Garcia who wanted to take certain supplements straight into their bloodstream.
It has since spread throughout the country, despite a healthy dose of skepticism from the medical community.
Stanley Goldfarb, a kidney specialist with the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said most people can take all the vitamins and minerals they need by mouth, and there isn’t compelling evidence that IVs are better for hangovers than water and Tylenol.
“Is it worth hundreds of dollars? Probably not,” Goldfarb said. “Is it possible it’s making people get better a little bit more quickly? It’s possible. Nobody has really looked at it closely.”
Still, Snyder said her company is doing 30 to 40 IV sessions a month around Kansas City. Most are either for people looking to recover from hangovers or people like Garcia looking to get preventative vitamins and minerals. But they’re also fielding calls from people who are dehydrated from influenza or gastrointestinal issues and don’t want to go to a hospital.
“These patients basically just require a few medications and fluids to get better,” Snyder said. “So this allows us to do it in their home without having to have them go to the ER, wait and be exposed to other illnesses while they’re there.”
Snyder’s infusions occasionally include some non-narcotic medications to treat headaches or nausea.
But her mobile IV treatments are considered elective and aren’t covered by health insurance. She charges between $80 and $180 for hers, depending on what’s being infused.
Snyder said her company, based on Ninth Street downtown, was the first to bring mobile IV to Kansas City.
Competitors have cropped up since then, including Revive and Rally IV Therapy on Main Street, which markets more for hangovers, and Element Wellness Spa Studio in Brookside, which markets more for those looking for IV supplements.
Goldfarb said he wasn’t particularly surprised at the growth in the Kansas City market, given that similar businesses seem to be making money elsewhere. But he said as IV services become more prevalent, they probably need more oversight and regulation.
Starting an IV seems simple, he said, but it’s actually a fairly technical skill and not without risk.
“Our immune system has multiple levels of control, and one of the important barriers to getting severe infections is the skin,” Goldfarb said. “Once you put an IV line in, you’ve breached most of the body’s defense mechanisms and are introducing things right into the bloodstream.”
Snyder said her company is staffed entirely by doctors, nurses or paramedics, and they all operate under protocols similar to traditional home health nurses. Those protocols include keeping all IV medications, bags and equipment in sterile packages until time of use and discarding anything that was not used and disposing of needles in designated “sharps” containers.
As a physician, there is someone looking over Snyder’s shoulder: state medical licensing boards.
After working in Missouri, she applied for a Kansas physician’s license to expand the business. But the Kansas Board of Healing Arts said her company didn’t meet state standards for medical record-keeping or having plans in place for patients who have allergic reactions.
Snyder told the board she made changes to get in line with state regulations and was granted a license, but was also required to take a medical record-keeping seminar and have her charts monitored for six months to ensure her company stays in compliance.
“For the state of Kansas, they just require different medical (record) keeping, so I just had to meet with them and make sure I got that under control and wrapped,” Snyder said. “So that was kind of a setback for us. They also did not understand the concept very well, so I met with them to explain it.”
Garcia said she has no qualms about using Snyder’s services, adding that it’s probably safer than getting an IV in a hospital full of sick people.
She met Snyder last year at a weekend-long gathering at a luxury apartment downtown where both had been hired to help keep the party going Sunday morning after a night of drinking.
They’ve since become friends who trade massages for IV infusions every couple of months.
“I usually feel pretty energized,” Garcia said of her IV treatments. “I think it’s a great price for the product. I think it’s a very good deal.”