Transitioning Your Practice Post-COVID-19

In the first part of our 3-part recap series of our Roadmap to Recovery webinar, panelists discussed how the dermatology practice changed during COVID-19 and what changes they plan on keeping.

The Roadmap to Recovery: Steps to Grow Your Practice and Profits Beyond COVID-19 webinar, sponsored by Aerolase, was led by Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, founder, Dermatology Consulting Services, PLLC, High Point, North Carolina and featured Carole Foos, CPA and tax consultant at OJM Group, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sarah Jackson, MD, Audubon Dermatology, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jason Staback, PA-C, general and cosmetic dermatology for South Jersey Dermatology, New Jersey, as panelists.

The panelists discussed several topics regarding what clinics and physicians will have to consider while transitioning to a post-COVID-19 environment. 

The first question asked Jackson how her office is conducting business after COVID-19.

“So, as many other offices did, we revised everything during the middle of the pandemic, and we had many protocols in place. What we did is we edited our employee handbook. We looked to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the AAD [American Academy of Dermatology] for guidelines and then we have been practicing under that same structure which we were all doing, masking 6-feet apart as much as possible,” Jackson said.

Now Jackson has relooked at the protocols from both the CDC and the AAD to identify the most up-to-date recommendations. Her practice has reevaluated the employee handbook and had employees sign-off, acknowledging they understood the new guidelines. There are different rules for employees, as some employees are vaccinated, and others are not. This distinction becomes a part of the employee handbook.

Patients, when about to undergo a procedure, will wear masks the entire time they are in the office and if they are going to be numbed, they are offered a face mask. Jackson is currently still wearing a mask and goggles for all procedures, while also sanitizing all touchable surfaces in the rooms. Staback’s practice is also still enforcing masks and all equipment is sterilized between patients. 

Draelos questioned how to balance the added cost for staffing and operations with profits because many practices are experiencing an increase of patients as COVID-19 restrictions relax.

Jackson said she changed the times of her practice. Instead of a 35-to-40-hour work week in the office, it has changed to a 55-hour week with extended times and more staggered staff. 

This had many benefits, including keeping the waiting room less full and the wait time reduced. Check in and check out was offered in the treatment room, so patients were roomed immediately and because the shifts were staggered, more rooms were available for this to be done. Employees and patients thought that the change was beneficial, so Jackson’s office is continuing to do this. 

Draelos then asked about telehealth and if Jackson planned to continue this aspect of care after COVID-19.

For Jackson, telehealth has helped her practice maintain contact with patients regarding everything from prescription refills to other follow-up needs. She said telehealth will remain a part of her practice and it has helped her connect with younger patient populations, as well as aided her practice in progressing toward helping more patients overall.

“It's important for your telehealth to think about not only malpractice, but also insurance coverage, like is [the patient’s] insurance going to pay for it if they're out of state,” Jackson added. “You need to make sure that not only your state is covered, but also the state that the patient might be residing in at the time because the telehealth waiver lifted the restrictions. But as far as telehealth goes, right now it's still wise to check state-to-state to make sure that those restrictions have been lifted at that level.”

Reference:

1. Draelos ZD, Jackson S, Foos C, Staback J. Road to Recovery. Webinar presented at the: Dermatology Time’s Roadmap to Recover; June 16, 2021.