COVID-19 came in like a lion in March 2020 and upended everything about life. Now eight months into the pandemic, this virus—and the restrictions it has placed on our lives and lifestyles—shows no sign of retreating. Many practices closed their doors in the early days and now that many have reopened, dermatologists are finding that it’s not business as usual. Here, Anne Chapas, MD, Medical Director of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, discusses all of the changes she made to her practice including the ways that she attracts new and returning patients to ease their anxiety and better reflect this new normal.

Did you overhaul your marketing photos/videos as a result of COVID-19?

Anne Chapas, MD: On social media, my colleagues and I film patient treatments in our full personal protective equipment (PPE). Talking in N-95 masks sometimes presents a challenge with audio, but it is more important that patients see that we always adhere to safety guidelines. We have a trove of treatment content from prior to COVID-19 but are waiting until it’s more appropriate sometime next year to publish.

On the rare occasions that my practice does publish a treatment filmed prior to COVID-19, we clearly specify in the caption that it was filmed before the pandemic to avoid confusion. Our doctors will only take photos without masks if they are alone and/or have a photographer filming from a safe distance. We also filmed a video walking through the practice to show every safety touchpoint including non-contact temperature check upon arrival, social distancing in the waiting room, sanitation stations, the room cleaning checklist between every patient, clinical team’s full PPE, and non-contact check out process.

What else have you done to make patients more comfortable coming back to your practice?

Dr. Chapas: I made my re-opening plan for my two practices—Union Square Laser Dermatology and Park View Laser Dermatology—very transparent to patients. In addition to the basic PPE and sanitation guidelines, I:

  • Implemented a strict screening protocol for patients and staff that patients must answer electronically or over the phone before they can come in
  • Require COVID-19 testing of staff every two weeks
  • Published a dedicated webpage on our COVID-19 protocols, linked from the homepage
  • Regularly call out our safety measures in our e-newsletters and other communications
  • Keep staff informed in our Weekly Bulletin of policy updates and state regulations.

Has your marketing strategy changed due to the pandemic?

Dr. Chapas: My marketing strategy has always been to meet patients where they are. Usually this is a figurative consideration, but in this example, it is quite literal. Having a Manhattan-based practice group, I have patients who regularly took the subway to see us but were hesitant to do so after COVID-19. We ran an email campaign where we volunteered private car service credit for appointments. While I never discount our services, I am happy to add value for my patients and provide a premium and safe experience, door-to-door.

During this challenging time, it’s important, as a physician, to think about patients’ barriers to receiving dermatological care and how we can help overcome these barriers. Communication is key, and safety is the Number 1 most important consideration!