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The COVID-19 Comeback


Surgeons from around the country share their plans and predictions for practice recovery.

Edwin F. Williams, III, M.D., went from denial in March, to harsh reality in April and May, to hope in June. The facial plastic surgeon, who practices throughout New York, says his practice made it through the Y2K bug, 9/11 and the 2007 to 2009 Great Recession.

When word of increasing coronavirus cases began to circulate in mid-March, Dr. Williams thought he and his 75-member team would get through this, too.

“In a couple of days, I realized this was not sustainable,” Dr. Williams says. “It’s not realistic to think you can close the doors, not bring in revenue and keep all these people employed.”

Government funding, a strong cash reserve and a loyal staff helped The Williams Center survive to June. Now, like many of his colleagues, Dr. Williams is tackling the murky waters of reopening.

The good news is, many practices expect and are beginning to see a high pent-up demand. In fact, many of the experts say their phones are ringing off the hook.

“We’re slammed right now. This our third week in. There has been a huge demand for procedures. A lot of surgery and a lot of nonsurgical procedures,” said Boca Raton, Fla., plastic surgeon Jason Pozner, M.D.

Practice Plans

There is no guidebook or standard of practice for how cosmetic practices come back from a pandemic, says Mary Lynn Moran, M.D., president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS).

AAFPRS members have leaned on one another, having conversations on social media, conducting thinktanks and virtual meetings to share available science, ideas and offer support, according to Dr. Moran.

“Not only is our field elective but it’s really face-to-face with this invader, which is coronavirus. We have to find ways going forward to safely protect ourselves, our staffs, our families, our patients and our communities,” Dr. Moran says. “Fortunately, we were involved with an endeavor called the AesCert guidance, which is a group of infectious disease experts, facial plastic surgeons, dermatologists and plastic surgeons, sponsored by Skin Better Science Institute. They basically took well-established practices, with respect to sterile procedure and respiratory precautions that you would normally use for somebody with, let’s say, tuberculosis, and put that together and said how can we incorporate these procedures in our daily practice in aesthetic medicine. AesCert.org has the guidance, which is published in our journal Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Medicine.”1

Key points from the guidance include:

  • Providers, staff and patients should wear personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Disinfection procedures should be carried out regularly throughout the day
  • Patients should spend as little time as possible in the office, filling out forms online, etc.
  • Providers should do virtual consults when possible

In mid-May, Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Medicine also published, “Recovery of Elective Facial Plastic Surgery in the Post-Coronavirus Disease 2019 Era: Recommendations from the European Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery Task Force.”2

Dr. Williams says his practice plans to work at a slower pace, extend its hours and take many precautions to keep staff and patients safe.

“For example, we’re starting with Botox just above the mask,” Dr. Williams says.

Plastic surgeon Christie Prendergast, D.O., of Curated Beauty Rx in Beverly Hills and Newport Beach, Calif., opened two offices during COVID-19. The pandemic affected every business decision from the electronic medical record (EMR) choice to the interior design and staffing.

“At Curated Beauty Rx we created a boutique team with exclusive, private patient experience post-COVID. We are also increasing our telemedicine with more options for virtual consultations and coordination of private recovery experiences so our patients who are coming from out-of-town can be protected,” Dr. Prendergast says. “We have implemented temperature checks, masks and social distancing within the office, which means adapting the scheduling to allow a very private patient experience. We also have acquired additional personnel dedicated to maintaining the necessary sterilization precautions between patients.”

NEXT: Pandemic Predictions

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