After another challenging year navigating pandemic mandates, ever-shifting guidance and new variants, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) explored how the COVID-19 pandemic affected dermatology practices and patients.

Its Pandemic Impact Survey sought details on personal protective equipment sourcing (PPE), staffing reductions, hiring challenges, changes in patient communications, procedural shifts and telehealth implementation.

“It’s important to learn from the past to shape our response and decisions for the future. This survey reveals the significant challenges our membership experienced, but even more so, highlights our ability to overcome obstacles, innovate to provide the best patient care and advance the future of our specialty.”

— ASDS President Sue Ellen Cox, MD

Practice Impact

ASDS members encountered various operational impacts including 72% of responders experiencing PPE supply challenges. As various states instituted lockdowns and deemed dermatologists non-essential, 90% of responders had limited operation during some period of the pandemic, with more than half forced to reduce staff. Group practices (60%) and solo practices (49%) were the most impacted by employee reductions. As members reopened their offices, they were finding it difficult to rehire in an extremely stressed healthcare professional employee market and navigate the “great resignation” environment. Stabilized staffing continues to be a challenge for 85% of those surveyed.

Patient Impact

Telemedicine gained momentum and adoption by ASDS membership. The survey showed an overall 187% increase in telehealth appointments with responders, while survey participants that offered telemedicine pre-pandemic saw a 226% increase in telehealth appointments. Many members had to adapt their type of patient communications. Digital channels rose with responders increasing emails (47%), social media (27%) and offering virtual education options (21%).

Procedural Impact

With access to care affected, many patients had to defer seeing their physician. 83% of responders’ patients experienced delays in skin checks or skin cancer follow up care. 70% of survey participants observed skin cancers they assessed and treated following reopening were larger or more aggressive by the time the patient was examined.

Many people transitioned to a remote virtual reality – spending hours a day looking at themselves on video calls – which drove the “Zoom effect” of patients wanting to improve what they were seeing on camera. 52% of responders welcomed new patients as a result of this phenomenon, and this effect drove 80% of responders’ existing patients to seek cosmetic treatments. The most popular cosmetic treatments during the reopening phase included wrinkle relaxing injections (65%), soft tissue fillers (54%) and laser / light / energy-based device treatments (40%).

To see the survey’s full results, visit American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

[Source(s): American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, GlobeNewswire]