Tips for Navigating Practice Challenges During COVID-19

January 21, 2021
Morgan Petronelli, Associate Editor

Dermatology Times, Dermatology Times, January 2021 (Vol. 42, No. 1), Volume 42, Issue 1

George Martin, MD, program director of the 2021 Maui Derm Live and Maui Derm Connect annual conferences being held January 25-29 in Maui, Hawaii, shares his checklist of essential advice for optimizing practice management during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic initially hit and restrictions were subsequently imposed, physicians had to think on their feet as to how to best protect their patients, as well as themselves and their staff. From increased use of masks to sanitizing stations and the implementation of telemedicine, the pandemic has turned the world of dermatology on its head.

Some physicians, such as George Martin, MD, dermatologist, Kihei, Hawaii, have used the pandemic’s challenges to develop innovative protocols for seeing patients in-office and virtually while keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Martin, who is also program director of the 2021 Maui Derm Live and Maui Derm Connect annual conferences being held January 25-29 in Maui, Hawaii, shares his checklist of essential advice for optimizing practice management during COVID-19:

  • Adaptability: responding creatively to the environment presented to you.
  • Flexibility: being nimble in your thinking and finding new solutions.
  • Innovation: creating new protocols or adapting existing ones.
  • Team involvement: listening to employees for their different perspectives and ideas.

Though adaptability, flexibility and innovation are critical to creating opportunities and limiting downside, tapping into the team is also essential to success, he says. “There’s no I in team. You hire talented people. Sit down with them and listen. Your employees are exceptionally bright creative. They can offer a fresh point of view.”

NAVIGATING COVID-19

Martin says that his office followed Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, screened patients outside of the office, took temperatures, socially distanced and wore N95 masks in order to keep the practice running safely and efficiently during the pandemic.

The office also allotted 15 minutes for every patient instead of the typical 10 minutes to allow for extra time for room sterilization. The extra time also meant that no one would feel rushed and patient contact in the corridors with staff and other patients could be minimized.

Martin says because of this due diligence, his practice had no staff shortages due to the pandemic and both team members and patients remained healthy and safe.

ONGOING CHALLENGES

While COVID-19 remains a concern in Maui, Hawaii, where he practices, Martin says the virus is not as prevalent in Hawaii as it is in states such as New York and South Dakota.

Despite this, he reports a 10% to 15% decrease in patient volume when the practice only saw life- threatening emergencies. Soon after, his practice implemented telemedicine as a modality to see patients, but that came with its own learning curve, according to Martin.

“COVID-19 slowed us down initially for about 6-8 weeks,” says Martin. “Coming out of that, we realized that telemedicine for dermatology was really just a screening tool for us, like triage. But it allowed patients to connect so that they didn’t feel like they were left out there stranded,” says Martin.

He adds that most of his telemedicine appointments ended with patients having to come into the office for in-person exams. Most follow-ups were conducted via phone rather than telemedicine.

download issueDownload Issue : Dermatology Times, January 2021 (Vol. 42, No. 1)