If there is one thing we’ve learned from our response to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s that, collectively, we are very adaptable to change. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, we saw the world as we know pause without warning. Hugs, handshakes, high-fives, lunchrooms and break rooms are now forever altered and now, in every aspect of our lives, we have a new focus on sterility and cleanliness with clinical acumen.
While we may desire to go back to how things “used to be,” the reality is that moving forward the only way we will be able to resume our normal lives is to make the kind of changes that will make our routine skin checks and dental cleanings a whole new experience. Here, the top nine ways our future cosmetic appointments will look a little bit differently now.
Virtual Consultations are the “New Normal”
For many patients, initial visits and consultations moved to Zoom and FaceTime during quarantine. Moving forward, many doctors we spoke to said they preferred to continue this practice to limit the risk of exposure. “The opportunity to do a video visit still stands at many places,” says Oklahoma City, OK dermatologist Kimberly Jerdan, MD. “I would urge patients concerned of the risks of contracting the virus, even with all the social distancing and mask measures in places, to ask for this option.”
Your Visits May Be Touchless
The patient experience may feel a bit more impersonal than before, but solely due to patient safety. “Everything will be geared towards being able to make sure patients and staff have the minimum amount of contact and potential exposure,” adds Houston dermatologist Jennifer Segal, MD. “Prior to COVID, I was a big hand shaker, touched many patients during the skin exam as the surface changes only felt, not seen, of the skin may show more than the eye can see,” say Dr. Jerdan. “Now, after washing my hands, I may give an elbow bump for camaraderie, but also want to respect the patient’s social distancing wishes. I will also be asking patients if it’s OK before I touch them.”
Say Goodbye to the Waiting Room
According to New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, wait times will be almost eliminated entirely and patients will be notified they can enter the office via text. “We will be sending our patients straight into the treatment room where they’re going to stay until it’s time to check out, so that’s going to eliminate exposure. All paperwork will have been completed before arrival and payment taken electronically beforehand.”
All the doctors we spoke to said patients should be prepared to attend the appointment alone unless having a companion is medically necessary. Appointments will be spaced out further to have more time to disinfect in between each patient. Dr. Segal notes her waiting room will be more “sparse,” her practice has eliminated extra furniture, décor, and everything on surfaces in the interest of being able to disinfect thoroughly between patients and throughout the day.
You Will Have Your Temperature Taken
“We are also going to take everyone’s temperature now at the door,” Dr. Peredo tells us. “We will have pre-scheduling criteria that you have to meet and answer questions about whether you’ve been around anyone who has been exposed to the virus. If somebody has fever or does not meet the criteria, obviously, we’re going to send them away.”
You May Need a COVID-19 Nasal Swab Test
Before seeking an elective treatment, some clinics and hospitals may require a negative PCR swab COVID test two days prior to a procedure. “If a patient chooses to undergo an elective procedure, they are asked to perform a screening nasopharyngeal swab within seven days of surgery and to quarantine themselves between the test and surgery date,” adds Palo Alto, CA plastic surgeon David Boudreault, MD.
“We are sending all of our surgical patients for COVID-19 testing before their surgery,” says Palo Alto, CA facial plastic surgeon David Lieberman, MD. “We’re also pre-screening all of our nonsurgical patients for any signs of illness before admitting them to the office. But in general, anyone who has been following social distancing measures and shows no signs of illness can feel confident getting a cosmetic treatment.”
Not Every Treatment May Be on the Menu
“In our office, we are currently adhering to CDC, state, and professional society guidelines, and limiting our practice to procedures that are less invasive, predictable, shorter in duration, and require fewer staff in the room,” says Dr. Segal. “Right now, we are not performing procedures that potentially create aerosolized virus, such as ablative laser procedures.”
“For elective treatments around the mouth, such as lip fillers, clinics may be hesitant on starting these,” says Dr. Jerdan. “Any procedures involving hospitalization can also increase your chances of coming in contact with the virus. For protection against patients who are asymptomatic and unknown positive carriers, you will see that health care workers that work intimately with the mouth and nose, like ENT physicians, dentists, orthodontists, dermatologists, etc. will take extra precautions with strict N95 use and whatever guidelines are in place for their institution.”
Your Procedure May Have to Wait
New York cosmetic dentist Nargiz Schmidt, DDS says that with everyone wearing masks, oral health is now more important than ever. If you are considered high risk for infection and your dental treatment is elective, it may be more beneficial to postpone it. “COVID-19 is a new disease and there is still limited information regarding risk factors. Based on what we know, older adults and patients with serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness. To avoid commuting and potentially being exposed to hazardous contacts, it’s best to postpone elective care until better times.”
“Patients who have answered ‘yes’ to any of the pre-screening questions who feel they may be at higher risk from COVID-19 are recommended to withhold from seeking elective procedures at this time,” advises Dr. Boudreault.
Your Doctor Will Have New Methods to Sterilize
In addition to wearing the proper personal protective equipment, including full-disposable gowns, face shields and level-three masks, Dr. Schmidt says she has also invested in a high-volume suction device to remove any aerosol particles while performing dental procedures. “All surfaces are also sprayed with antiseptic solution to disinfect and the office is being fogged twice a day.”
Some of the doctors we spoke to say they are using a HEPA/UV filter. “Now you have to remember though the virus is .125 microns at most and I would say 95 to 98 percent of hepa filters don’t filter below 0.3 microns,” says New York cosmetic dentist Jason Kasarsky, DDS, “but if you’re turning the air over ten or 12 times an hour each time the machine works, you’re basically picking-up smaller and smaller particles.”
New York oculoplastic surgeon Irene Gladstein, MD tells us she is disinfecting spaces between patients with germicidal ultraviolet technology. “Ultraviolet C (UVC), is one of the three types of rays given off by the sun,” she explains. “Though research into its safety around humans still needs to be explored, it has been shown to be effective against previous strains of coronaviruses. We currently use this modality to disinfect facilities after hours as well as for disinfection of personal protective equipment.”
Your Diligence Will Help Keep Things Safe and Clean
As we move forward and cities, states and doctors’ offices reopen across the country, the doctors we spoke with want to encourage patients to work with them to help minimize patient risk. “The best approach is to just be respectful of everyone’s social distancing measures and wishes, practice good hand hygiene, and wear a mask when possible, as a sign of respect for others as well,” recommends Dr. Jerdan. “Overall, when in doubt, don’t panic and be kind.”