Back to Business After COVID-19

Photo: Vital Agibalow

As a result of the pandemic, many businesses were either put on pause or had to find alternative ways to operate during what were—and still are—very trying times.

Almost immediately, elective surgeries came to a halt, and doctors were tasked with finding alternative ways to communicate with patients. Fortunately, through the use of telemedicine, doctors were able to stay in touch via virtual visits and still serve patients to the best of their abilities.

For Dr. B. Aviva Preminger, one of Manhattan’s top plastic surgeons, consults, post-op, and follow-up visits were all conducted virtually, unless a patient needed to be seen in person. And while elective surgeries were put on hold, Dr. Preminger was still available for those patients who needed a plastic surgeon.

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“We never fully shut down,” says Dr. Preminger. “I was still available for emergency care. People were home, cooking things they hadn’t been cooking, fixing things around their home, kids were cooped up, running around, and falling, and I went in for a lot of those cases.”

As a doctor, it was very important to Dr. Preminger to be available for her patients because not only did they need her, it kept them out of the hospital where they could have potentially been exposed to the virus.

When doctors like Dr. Preminger were cleared to resume working at full capacity, they were faced with embracing a “new normal.” Dramatic changes have been put into place. For patients anxious to get their beauty regimen back on track, there are going to be significant changes.

BELLA sat down with Dr. Preminger to talk about how she and her staff are moving forward post-pandemic.

What are some of the new rules and precautions patients must be aware of when it comes to treatments post-COVID-19?

We are pre-screening all patients with a list of questions on the phone first, and then when they come in, we screen everyone with a temperature check at the door. Also, before we go ahead with surgery, we do our own coronavirus testing, and the patient must quarantine from then until the time of surgery.

I used to be fine if patients brought a friend with them to a consultation, but now, unless it’s a child or a post-op patient that needs assistance, we really discourage anyone else coming in.

We’re also spreading out appointments so there are fewer people in the office, and we no longer keep people in the waiting room.

Previously, I would sit down with patients in my consultation room but now they go straight to an exam room. I used to be all nicely dressed up in the office, but I don’t do that anymore. Everyone is in scrubs, I wear a disposable jacket, and my staff and patients must all wear masks.

For some doctors, seeing patients virtually was a new way of working, but you have experience with this type of communication. Do you think this method will be around to stay?

I have used telemedicine when seeing patients who are from out of state, or with international patients who are planning to fly in and see me, so I have experience using telemedicine.

Being able to connect with patients in this way definitely makes you realize you can do it, but my personal preference is still an in-person consultation. Particularly with what I do, there is something to be said for being able to perform a physical exam in a follow-up to make sure everything feels OK.

Which procedures would you say have been most requested since returning to the office?

I would say there has been a tremendous rush on injectables. Patients usually come in every three to six months, and no one was able to come in for a while. People were looking at themselves on Zoom screens and weren’t happy with the way they looked post-COVID-19.

Now that elective surgeries have resumed and many people haven’t fully gone back to work and are still working remotely, it’s a good time to have something done without having to take a lot of time off. And with injectables, if a person bruises, they can just shut their screen off on Zoom.

You truly love what you do; how was that first “official” day back?

I was so happy the first day back. My whole staff was applauding after the first case I did; everyone was thrilled. I missed it so much, although you sort of get used to not going to work, and at one point thought to myself, maybe I won’t miss it, but as soon as I was back in the OR, I was like, this is awesome!

One of the nice things about your office is that you have an operating room on site. Can you share your thoughts on that benefit?

While I think hospitals are very safe, there are some patients who are still afraid, so having an OR in my office is nice for those who are nervous being in a hospital right now. The office is a bit more of a controlled environment, and it gives patients a sense of calm that, for many, is still not easy to find. Along with the practical precautions we’re taking, it’s also important to make patients comfortable and safe to relieve any anxiety they may feel!

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