Plastic Surgery in COVID Times: Have Things Changed?
Who would have ever guessed that we would face one of the biggest pandemics our world would ever see. Businesses closed down, we immediately became experts in Zoom, we worked from home while home schooling our children, hugging was not allowed, seeing loved ones and friends was not allowed. Hospitals were at capacity and all elective surgery was canceled in order to preserve PPE, ventilators, and hospital beds for COVID patients. Despite our country coming to a screeching halt, the demand for plastic surgery and injectables did not die down.
You might be asking yourself what we saw happen. The cosmetic-focused practices closed for the most part. While we remained open for our reconstructive and our postoperative patients, we no longer saw patients for cosmetic concerns. Despite this, the demand was high. Patients no longer had work obligations and would have the time to stay at home while they healed from surgery. One of the biggest challenges our patients face when scheduling cosmetic procedures is getting time off of work, this was no longer a concern. They also didn’t have to worry about bruising and swelling (what we call down-time after a procedure) because they would not be in public seeing anyone for the foreseeable future. Despite the demand, we were unable to accommodate.
Fast forward to recent days when we received the okay to resume elective surgery and reopen our clinics. We now have to adapt to a new normal. This is the crux of this blog. What’s new and why are we doing it.
• Telemedicine: As a way to still stay connected and provide care to our patients, telemedicine and virtual consults became the mainstay during our stay-at-home orders. Most practices are continuing to do this. This also allows us to see patients from other areas of the country or world prior to an in-person visit.
• Social distancing and face masks: While we maintain social distancing in the office as best as we can, there’s only so far you can stand from someone to examine them. We require face masks to be worn at all times during the visit. In order to maintain social distancing, we schedule only one person in the office at each time.
• Contactless paperwork: Doctors’ offices are known for their share of paperwork. Usually these include HIPAA consents, privacy forms, office policies, etc, which are done in the office. To minimize the exchange of paper and pens that can be contaminated and to maintain social distance, many offices have converted to paperless forms that must be completed before the office consultation
• COVID consents and screening: We are learning more about this virus by the hour and still have more to learn. These consent forms protect yourself and us and acknowledge that our protocols are based on the current knowledge. It also gives us permission to see you during this uncertain time. Screening is done prior to the appointment and on arrival. While this cannot prevent asymptomatic carriers from entering, we can at least monitor the patients that have symptoms.
• Cleaning: A doctor’s office is one of the cleanest areas, speaking of course about our office in particular. Our normal policies include scrubbing and cleaning all surfaces and chairs/examination beds with hospital-grade cleaning wipes. With COVID, we continue to do this but leave all doors open to prevent knob handling, we provide paper gowns rather than robes, bathrooms and any other public areas are cleaned after each use. We allow 15 minutes in between patients just for cleaning.
• New Filler protocols: Some changes you might see include rinsing the mouth with an antiviral mouth wash. Staff will be wearing N95 masks, goggles, and gowns to protect you as well as ourselves. Your mask is removed for the procedure but replaced immediately.
Finally, let’s talk a bit more about surgery. Hospitals are beginning to slowly return to normal working conditions. With that said, COVID testing is now mandatory for all patients prior to their surgery. Typically, this is done 3-4 days prior to surgery after which a self-quarantine is recommended until the day of surgery to ensure you are not exposed in the interim. Anyone that tests negative is cleared to proceed with surgery. As you can imagine, this is to ensure the safety of you and the hospital and operating room staff. We are still learning more about COVID but what we do know is, patients that test positive have increased anesthesia and healing risks which we clearly want to avoid.
While there are some more details about the other changes that have occurred with our new normal, these are the main ones that directly affect you as the patient. While your normal visit with us might look a little different, our heart is the same and our goal to give you the very best possible care. We also are available to personally walk you through the process and we always make sure we stay up to date on the state and CDC guidelines as they evolve and change. In the meantime, stay safe and rest assured that we will do everything we can to make your visit with us a safe and memorable one.