For the medical practices we help with their online presence it has definitely been an odd year. When everything blew up with COVID-19 in late February, none of us knew what to expect. The only thing that was clear what this was a novel virus, one the human body had never been exposed to. That meant things would be complicated.
The first thing was that all non-essential medical office visits were put on hold. Even if patients wanted to come in to maintain their Botox results or for a chemical peel, they were not able to do so. That began to change in late April to May in most areas of the country, as practices slowly reopened, and elective procedures were once again allowed.
But through the summer, this has still been a difficult time. Some thought the virus would calm down during the warm months of summer, but that hasn’t proven true. Some anticipate a surge of new cases in the colder months of winter. Others think “herd immunity” could be closer to 50 percent rather than the former estimate of 75 percent of the population. No one knows anything for sure.
The only thing that’s certain moving forward is uncertainty. The changes our client practices have already made have been difficult, but somewhat enlightening at the same time. The interactions between patients and providers have definitely changed mightily, and it will be some time, if ever, before they return to where they were prior to COVID-19.
New practice protocols
Each state and even region can have different health regulations on everything from mandatory mask wearing to the number of people who can be in a group in public. To help create some common ground the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has established recommendations for aesthetic practices to keep their staff and patients safe. These are those recommended protocols:
- Universal masking procedures
- Mandatory gloves for both patients and staff
- Mandatory temperature and screening checks upon entry
- Patients must be asymptomatic to enter office
- The number of patients per day is limited
- COVID-19 testing should be available
- Mandatory staff education
- Limited in-office consultations in favor of moving to virtual consultations
- Online patient portals and e-communication for registration and paperwork
- Elimination of waiting rooms
- HEPA filters placed throughout the facility
- Increased decontamination protocols for anesthesia machines
- Frequent cleanings for all high-touch areas
- Contactless payment
Some practices have gone beyond these guidelines. Many have every staff member change into scrubs when they first come in for the day, changing back into street clothes when they head home. Others have installed UV lamps at ceiling level to sterilize rooms between patients. Others have standalone UV emitting equipment that is placed in the center of every room for further sterilization and used when no one is in the room.
Protocols for patients
Practices aren’t the only ones who have had to adjust. So have patients. These are the patient guidelines recommended by the ASPS:
- Consult with the provider via telemedicine prior to your appointment
- Fill out all necessary paperwork online
- Wait offsite before entering the office after receiving a text or phone call
- Be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or fever prior to entering office
- Wear a mask and gloves when arriving for your scheduled appointment
- The number of patients is limited
Having taken a closer look…
One potentially good thing to come out of this virus is that many of those who have been stuck at home found themselves taking a closer look at signs of aging, the appearance of their teeth, the health of their skin, and other personal details. After all, the high-definition cameras on our computers and cell phones may be great for conducting those staff meetings via Zoom, but they don’t exactly hide any flaws in our appearance.
That means many people who may not have been considering having treatments such as IPL photofacials to get rid of age spots or porcelain veneers to present a perfect smile now have become interested. This could lead to growth in the patient base.
Of course, there is also compression to a degree, however, especially with older patients who are in the high-risk categories for COVID-19. For that group, it could take the arrival of a vaccine for any return to normalcy and their aesthetic treatments.
Another factor that bodes well for future growth in the aesthetic world is saving. During this time of closed restaurants and movie theaters, social distancing, and all, people have not been spending money. Sure, they’ve been buying items online, but they haven’t been able to go out to dinner and a movie. Most people have cancelled planned trips, whether due to necessity (Hawaii wasn’t open well into the summer) or fear. All of that money has been saved and now it could be used to whiten those stained teeth, to lose the crow’s feet, or to acquire a shapelier figure.
In this month’s second blog, we’ll go over five ways that your practice can work to make your patients feel at ease about returning to your office and having the procedures or treatments they want.
If you have any questions about things your practice should be doing during this oddest of times, don’t hesitate to contact your Advice Media representation or fill out a contact form.