There have been immense changes to health practices, including dermatology and aesthetic medicine, in the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, when Australia shut its borders to keep the virus at bay, nonessential services were also closed until the virus was under control.
Now, to improve patient care, a cosmetic dermatology clinic out of British Columbia, Canada, have endeavoured to characterise patient attitudes, perceptions, and motivations for receiving aesthetic treatments amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
They designed a short quantitative survey to understand factors affecting patient perceptions of comfort at their most recent clinic visit and their motivations for aesthetic treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As per the regulatory public health authorities, cosmetic dermatology clinics were closed to patients for an extended period. Their reopening came when the Public Health Act of British Columbia released an order requiring businesses to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan that minimised the risk of transmission.
Similarly, Australian governments issued enforceable government directions that set out public health requirements and restrictions for reopening businesses. Some businesses, including public health and cosmetic clinics, required a COVIDSafe Plan.
After the clinic in British Columbia implemented their COVID-19 Safety Plan, they surveyed 221 patients who attended the clinic in the first four weeks of reopening. The plan included rigorous environmental controls and safety measures following local regulatory public health guidance.
The survey focused on understanding patient-perceived comfort and its effects on comfort levels based on the safety measures. Using a 5-point Likert scale, 85.7% responded as “extremely comfortable” when asked how they felt compared to prior visits at their clinic. Zero patients reported feeling somewhat or extremely uncomfortable.
Factors influencing patient comfort
When rating factors influencing patient comfort, trust was the number factor of influence, with 81% agreeing it was extremely important. Followed by the importance of rigorous prescreening protocols, including masks and face shields worn by treatment providers.
What’s most surprising is that most patients felt more comfortable at their most recent visit to the clinic than doing other activities such as visiting the grocery store, the pharmacy, the gym and their place of work.
“Before COVID-19, there was already an overwhelming influence of trust in ensuring patients were comfortable. Now, as our offices across Australia operate in and out of lockdowns, doctor-patient trust is more imperative than ever before,” says Dr Lanzer, Australia’s leading cosmetic surgeon with clinics located in VIC, NSW, QLD and WA.
Motivations for aesthetic treatment during the public health crisis
Furthermore, the survey went on to understand whether patient motivations have changed during the pandemic. They found that significant motivators of aesthetic treatments during the pandemic were to follow-up with previously scheduled treatments, refresh their look, gain confidence, or address something of concern.
What’s interesting is that when respondents answered the question, “when reflecting on the pandemic, how did you feel when you were unable to have aesthetic treatment?” respondents replied with themes of frustration, anxiety, stress, and disappointment.
The results of this survey are also indicative of patient comfort in Australian public health settings. Trust is paramount, and with an increase in physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, patients are more eager to endorse self-care and doing something positive as reasons for returning to cosmetic clinics for aesthetic treatments.