When COVID-19 struck early this year, the aesthetic medical industry was one of the many victims. Closures hit hard as the quarantine dragged on and non-essential procedures were moved to the bottom of the medical priority list.
Now that much of the country is in at least some stage of reopening, aesthetics practices are operating again, and surprisingly, they’re seeing something of a boom in business as a result of the “Zoom Effect.”
For those practices that may still be waiting to reopen, or those who have only partially taken the plunge, let’s review some guidelines that will need to be followed in order to reopen and operate safely.
Medical professionals are already well-versed in the importance of sanitation and cleanliness, but now that focus is even more critical.
There should be an established frequency of hand washing as well a mandate for frequent hand sanitizing. Staff should be educated in cough etiquette, and all staff should wear gloves and masks. Staff should also be directed to stay home if they are sick, and sent home immediately if any symptoms develop at work.
All waiting areas, work areas, reception and work counters, and door handles should be regularly sanitized.
Supplies should be assessed and restocked on a regular basis, including tissues, alcohol-based hand rub, soap at sinks, and trash cans. Use barriers (like screens) at reception, if possible, and if your office has toys, reading materials, or other communal objects like check-in kiosks or iPads, either remove them or clean them regularly.
Distancing and patient screening
Staff should be placed at the entrance to ask patients about any symptoms, and temperature checks should be performed. All patients should be required to wear facemasks covering the mouth and nose, and non-patient visitors should be restricted. Any sick patients with symptoms should be immediately sent home and rescheduled until they are asymptomatic.
Ideally, patients should be directed to wait outside or in the car if they are medically able. When possible, chairs in all waiting areas should be placed 6 feet apart, and appointments should be scheduled with ample time separating them in order to minimize the number of patients in the office at any given time.
Another good precaution to consider is to offer online consultations as opposed to in-person ones.
It’s important to remember, though, that a virtual consult can’t replace a comprehensive evaluation. Rather, they should be seen as a valuable introduction to you and your practice and an opportunity to answer any and all initial questions prospective patients might have about a procedure.
Security in general, and HIPAA compliance specifically, can also be an understandably daunting red light for any physician contemplating virtual care or virtual consultations. It’s important to note that going virtual with your medical practice is not just a matter of firing up FaceTime on your iPad or Skype on your computer. You’ll need to work with an online platform specifically designed for telehealth services.
In general, this COVID world is unfamiliar territory for all of us, so it’s vital that you and your staff are thoroughly educated on the subject and that this education is updated as new information becomes available.
You should ensure that all staff know the right ways to safely put on, use, and take off PPE. Staff should also be taught to recognize the symptoms of COVID, including fever, respiratory symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, as well as other symptoms.
The CDC website is, of course, an invaluable resource for educational material as well as official guidelines regarding COVID-19, but you should also pay close attention to any guidelines provided by local and state agencies in your area so as to ensure proper compliance.
In addition to all of these measures, it’s also vital to take the additional step of communicating with your patients about what guidelines are in place in order to both reassure them of their safety while in your clinic, and ensure their compliance with all appropriate guidelines and restrictions.
You can find signs for your clinic and infection prevention guidelines at www.cdc.gov/COVID19.
Keep calm and carry on
As stated above, the aesthetic medical industry has been doing quite well in these early days of reopening. Of course, no one knows what tomorrow might bring, but in general, the outlook for the future would seem to be rosier than one might have assumed. By following all applicable guidelines and keeping yourself abreast of new information as it arises, you can be assured that you’ll be properly equipped to safely and successfully navigate this Brave New Normal.