As COVID-19 rampages through the world, there is a lot of anxiety in the medical community. Elective procedures have stopped in many jurisdictions, either voluntarily or by law. It’s been a month since The Centre for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a suggestion to delay all non-essential medical and dental procedures until the COVID crisis is over for the United States.1 In Canada, many provinces are mandating postponing elective procedures and other non-essential care.
Cosmetic vs. Elective Procedures
When we discuss elective procedures in DermLetter, we usually refer to cosmetic procedures that are paid by the patient. They are optional, and generally do not have a timeline, nor are they health-related in a direct way. An elective procedure refers to any non-emergency procedures, however. The term “elective” in some ways is a bit of a misnomer that can create misunderstanding. Knee or hip replacement procedures, and even cancer treatments can be “elective” if they are not particularly aggressive. It does not mean that it’s not a big deal or that these procedures are entirely optional.
Medical procedures that are scheduled, in short, will likely be delayed, although this will vary from locale to locale. The main reason to postpone non-essential surgeries is two-fold:
- To preserve critical protective equipment such as medical-grade masks as well as medical staff
- To limit the public’s exposure to the novel Coronavirus
In broad strokes, the idea is that we need more medical resources and hospital capacity in case there is an explosion of COVID-19 patients. Procedures that aren’t an emergency are, therefore, on hold. Several other measures are also taking place if the situation worsens on a local level. In British Columbia, for example, a registry is being created for healthcare professionals who are retired, returning to work, should the crisis worsen.2 For non-emergency care, we may see other adjustments, and innovations like teledermatology become more mainstream.
When will cosmetic procedures come back? There are so many unknowns with the Novel Coronavirus that no one can be too confident predicting the future. For elective surgical procedures such as a Facelift, it may take some time before these can be performed. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, every medical system will have a significant backlog of non-essential procedures when the medical system starts to open up. For example, a patient scheduled for a skin cancer surgery may need to wait longer today if it isn’t advanced, or if the risk is deemed low. At a later date, though, the skin cancer may have advanced, and require surgery at a higher priority. These concerns apply to other severe but non-emergency care such as stroke rehabilitation, or cardiac and vascular patients. Even in the best of circumstances, it will likely take some time before cosmetic procedures return, since these procedures will take priority.3 Clinics that perform both medical and cosmetic procedures will need to prioritize the backlog of patients who were on hold for medical but non-emergency bookings.
On the other hand, clinics that are specialized for cosmetic procedures may be able to reopen their practices relatively quickly once restrictions are removed. One factor to consider is the perceived risk from the public. For example, even if regulations allowed movie theaters, restaurants, or sporting events to reopen tomorrow, this won’t mean that these industries will boom because too many people will consider these activities to be too risky. From this standpoint, while cosmetic procedures will seem (and be) less risky compared to crowd activities, patients may choose to wait longer or decide that the cumulative risk is not worth the upside of a cosmetic procedure under the present circumstance.
What Can I do?
Perhaps you were thinking about a cosmetic procedure, or already had one scheduled. The timeline is now out of your control, but there are several things that you can do today to improve your potential outcome. Many cosmetic procedures are available. Take the time now to learn about the different procedures that may be available to you. Realself.com is a great resource to research procedures and see how those who have undergone the procedure feel about the results. Some clinics are offering virtual consultations using platforms like Zoom.4 It will be a challenging time for many clinics as well, and many will be offering creative solutions to provide value to patients in innovative ways.
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
A soft procedure like a Botox or filler injection requires little preparation. Still, for more invasive procedures like a facelift, the patient also has some responsibilities. Any invasive procedure is no different from medical surgery in terms of the risks. If you are a smoker, for example, many physicians will refuse to perform an elective procedure as it increases the risks of the procedure to an unacceptable level.
- Quit smoking
- If you are overweight, change your lifestyle to get in shape
- Reduce salt intake, and stay hydrated
These are unprecedented times that affect us all in different, but mostly negative ways. Your financial situation may have changed significantly after this crisis. Perhaps you may have changed your mind about which or if you want to go through with a cosmetic procedure. Try to live day by day, do your research, and remember that you can always reevaluate your situation and make better decisions.