Plastic Surgery consulting in the era of COVID-19

“These are historic times.”  How often have we heard this in the past?  Well, here we are in truly historic times, without a doubt — global pandemic, financial upheaval, societal changes with far-reaching implications.  Our little piece of this puzzle is elective Plastic Surgery and medical skin care, and we are facing a myriad of challenges as we attempt to treat patients safely, treat our employees fairly, and treat our business such that it comes out of this stronger than it was before “social distancing” was considered a good thing.

Stress applied to a system can create change – we’ve known about this for quite some time. We’re seeing this played out in real time within our practice, especially as it relates to our ability to interact with patients virtually.  Two weeks ago most of us hadn’t heard of or used Zoom or similar remote-meeting platforms, but that’s changed for many.  Personally, my virtual consults 3 months ago probably weren’t very engaging for the patients — a phone call, discussion of the patient’s desires and the details of the surgery, and a perusal of photos submitted by the patient.  Many patients signed up for surgery, likely more due to a personal referral than an outstanding or particularly informative “consult”.  Now, however, we’ve been forced to evolve.  After a crash course in Zoom hosting, I can now virtually interact with a patient, see his/her face (a big plus for conversational engagement), share my computer screen with them to evaluate/explain their particular anatomy, and even simulate a variety of surgical outcomes with a 3D platform.

What this all means is that I can now give patients a much more complete virtual experience that rivals that from an in-the-flesh consult, and my practice is better for it.  Without forced isolation, I doubt I would have embraced the concept as readily as I have.  One likely unintended consequence of this is that I expect virtual consults to become an important part of my practice, even for local patients, once our shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted and we can tentatively venture out into the real world.  It’s efficient, environmentally friendly, and newly engaging.  Growth, even when it comes about due to incredible adversity, can be a positive thing.


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