Everyone is responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with good reason.The rapid spread of the virus is affecting everything about our day-to-day life, from where we can go to what we can do and who we can do it with, and aesthetic practices are hard hit in light of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that hospital elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent outpatient visits be postponed if the virus has started to spread through a community.

Modern Aesthetics® magazine reached out to our practice management dream team for tips on how to best weather this viral and financial storm.

All Hands on Deck

By Wendy Lewis

Educate your staff ASAP. This is an evolving firestorm and will change day by day, so get everyone up to speed on how to manage the challenges of COVID-19. Make sure to establish protocols for everyone in your practice to protect themselves and patients, including cleaning staff.

Post these instructions from the CDC in non-patient areas:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Stay in the know by setting alerts from the World Health Organization and CDC for new developments so you are prepared to answer any questions patients may have.

Establish protocols for any possible situations that may arise, including but not limited to:

  • How to handle patients who present with signs of COVID-19, despite being told to stay home
  • Back-up plans for staff shortages in the event that they cannot come in or have to stay home with children due to school closings.

Make a checklist of materials, drugs, and supplies that may be needed, and stock up for a minimum of four weeks to be safe.

Get an additional supply of essentials in case shortages occur; for example, gloves, anti-bacterial wipes, hospital grade disinfectants, hand sanitizers, etc.

Share supplies with nearby practices to support each other. It’s all hands on deck right now.

When COVID-19 tests are made available, make an effort to offer to test everyone in the practice (doctors, nurses, physician extenders, administrative staff, etc.) and retest at specific intervals if deemed necessary. It will be important to communicate to patients that you are being vigilant for their protection. You may also reassure them that if anyone on your staff exhibits any symptoms they will be instructed to stay home.

Send an e-blast to active patients to calm their fears and reinforce the fact that your practice is taking the potential risks of COVID-19 seriously with their safety in mind.

If you are open, restrict visits from patients who have a fever, cough, or any respiratory symptoms. If you are experiencing any signs of illness, please call our office before your next appointment so we can evaluate you.

A pre-emptive strike is better than having a patient come in and not be able to treat them, or having someone wheezing and coughing in your waiting room.

Protocols, protocols, and more protocols

By Mara Shorr, BS, CAC XIV and Jay A. Shorr, BA, MBM-C, CAC XIV

During this uncertain time, practices are struggling with how to manage their business. The strongest way to get through is to have a protocol, policy, procedure or checklist in place so that everyone is on the same page.

Make sure your practice has:

  • Protocols to move up existing, non-surgical patients in your schedule. Things are changing quickly, and if/when a national policy on closures is put into place, those patients won’t be able to come.
  • Protocols for team members who are not able to come into work at the last minute due to school closures or illness.
  • Protocols for allowing employees to work from home.
  • Protocols for how to maintain HIPAA compliance while working from home.
  • Protocols on how to obtain accurate employee law information from your state as it changes on a daily basis.
  • Phone scripts outlining your patient safety protocols, patient cancelation and rescheduling policy, and answers to other frequently asked questions.
  • Updated scripting for your voicemail and on-hold messaging, as well as your call forwarding protocol.
  • Policies for safety in your practice, both from the virus and any potential issues that may arise in case of closure.
  • Updated policies on surgical and non-surgical refunds.
  • A new marketing plan that keeps your potential patients engaged so they don’t forget about you, while maintaining sensitivity.
  • Protocols on how to directly communicate updates with patients and employees as hours and policies continue to change.

Being able to move quickly is going to be the first step. After that, regrouping from the economic impact is going to be key.

Do Your Part

By David Evans, PhD, MBA

The two key issues for doctors and surgeons in the COVID-19 era are keeping patients safe and not unduly stressing the health care system.

The health care system is working at maximum capacity with a threat to exceed this capacity if too many people become infected with the virus and require hospital care at the same time. This pressure is not only on hospital beds, but also on supplies such as surgical masks, gloves, drapes and gowns. As such, consider postponing invasive surgery that requires hospital use or surgical or other hospital supplies. This decision can be based on whether local hospitals are allowing elective surgery.

Patients who have scheduled consultations for cosmetic procedures should be contacted immediately so that their appointments can be rescheduled in a month. Any patients who require follow-up visits to remove stitches or other post-surgery care should be seen on a staggered schedule to avoid waiting room crowds. Staff should be reduced accordingly to limit exposure to and contagion risk.

After you have decided what measures to take with COVID-19, update your website with the information and send a newsletter to your patient base. Pandemics have typical growth and decline paths. Data from countries outside the US that had an earlier disease path show a five- to six-week increase in new cases before numbers began to fall. The Worldometer website captures data from the United Nations and can be used to track what is happening with the disease spread in the US and other countries so that you can plan accordingly.