6 Reasons to Feel Safe in Your Derm’s Office During COVID
Psoriasis is not a condition you want to delay treatment for—and no, Zoom appointments are not always just as good.
In the past year, maybe you’ve skipped so many hair color appointments your roots are reaching new ground or let so much time go by without a teeth cleaning that it took a crown casualty to get you back into the dentist’s chair (guilty on both counts over here). We’re all having feelings about seeing the doctor or maintaining regular appointments for fear of COVID. But, if you’re one of the six in 10 Americans living with a chronic condition, including psoriasis, seeing your derm, especially when you’re having a flareup, can be crucial to care.
In the short-term, if you don’t seek treatment when you first see a flareup, it will require more aggressive treatment when you eventually do consult with a doctor, says Dr. Orit Markowitz, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in NYC. “The longer you go without treatment the more likely you will need systemic drug therapy, which could be avoided when you seek treatment right away,” she says. Then of course, there are the visible symptoms of psoriasis, which can be both psychosocially and symptomatically debilitating, says dermatologist Rachel Maiman, M.D., of Marmur Medical in New York.
“The skin can often be considered a mirror that reflects what’s happening in the body internally," Dr. Maiman says. “With inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, a flare of the classic pink scaly plaques signals that there is likely concomitant widespread internal inflammation stressing the organ systems that can be affected by the condition.”
“When psoriasis goes untreated it can lead to other inflammatory diseases like psoriatic arthritis, which has the potential to become irreversible,” Dr. Markowitz says. “Additionally, there is a link to severe psoriasis and cardiovascular issues that could possibly lead to heart attacks.”
This isn’t meant to scare you silly, but it should serve as the nudge you need to get in for regular care—and especially when you’re experiencing a flare. And, thankfully, you have every reason to feel completely secure in your derm’s office. That’s because dermatologists are taking more precautions that ever to keep their offices sanitized and safe. If your concern for catching COVID is keeping you from seeking treatment, call your derm’s office to find out all the steps they’re taking to see that the experience is reassuring. In the meantime, here’s what some top derms are doing to protect their patients.
People Limits in the Office
Busy waiting rooms are all but a bygone era. “Offices are limiting the number of patients allowed in at a time and there is also a limit on the number of patients that can safely wait in the waiting area,” Dr. Maiman says. “Additionally, most offices are asking that patients be seen solo in treatment rooms, with the exception of pediatric patients who require being seen with a parent or guardian.”
Paperwork Is Minimal
Instead of having to sit in the waiting room and fill out pages of lengthy paperwork, many derms are having patients fill out and submit everything beforehand. “To eliminate lines at the reception desk, many patients are asked to complete pre-appointment paperwork online,” Dr. Maiman says. This not only minimizes time spent in the waiting room itself but reduces any contact with other patients.
Waiting Rooms Are Looking Slimmer
While some offices are eliminating the waiting room altogether by having patients wait outside or in the car and texting when they arrive, if the waiting room is open, you’ll notice some big changes like the usual magazines, pens, and coffee stations are gone. Many offices are also curtailing the number of patients they see each day to allow for social distancing. And scattered seating keeps anyone else at an arm’s length (actually, more like three arm’s lengths) away.
Screening Before Entering
If there’s any chance you’ve been exposed or are experiencing suspicious symptoms, your derm’s office won’t let you in. “Most offices will call patients to review answers to screening questionnaires, which specifically ask about symptoms and possible exposures to COVID-19, to minimize risk,” Dr. Maiman says. Twenty-four hours before your appointment, you’ll likely get a second screening call. It may seem like overkill, but it’s for your safety and everyone you come into contact with.
The Air? It’s Been Purified
Beyond putting the standard precautionary procedures and protocols into practice, some offices are taking things up a notch by helping you to breathe easier—literally. “At, OptiSkin, we’re utilizing an IQAir HealthPro Series HyperHEPA Filter in all open spaces and in each exam room,” Dr. Markowitz says. “This is an air filtration system that has been tested and certified to filter 99.5% of harmful air particles.”
Spaces Are Super-Sanitized
Obviously, keeping both waiting rooms and exam rooms sterile and sanitized in between patients is more important than ever before, and derms are taking this very seriously. “There is a diligent commitment to fully sanitizing patient rooms in between patient visits, as well as staff from the physicians to the front desk,” Dr. Maiman says. Dr. Markowitz is using a high-powered EMist Electrostatic Disinfectant Sprayer, which applies a positive charge to liquid disinfectants as they pass through the nozzle. Thanks to a negatively charged surface attraction, the device allows for a more efficient cleaning of hard nonporous surfaces. “This is the same device airports have been using on planes,” Dr. Markowitz says.
Does any of this guarantee that you won't contract COVID? In this age of ultra-precaution, most offices won't come out and say that. But let's put it this way. It is triple-very, super-highly unlikely that if your derm's office is taking these precautions you will come in contact with the virus. You will, however, benefit from having your psoriasis treated before a flare takes you out of commission.
Psoriasis & COVID Care: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2020). “National Psoriasis Foundation COVID-19 Task Force Guidance for Management of Psoriatic Disease During the Pandemic: Version 1.” jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(20)32544-5/pdf
Psoriasis Meds & COVID Impact: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. (2021). “Factors associated with adverse COVID-19 outcomes in patients with psoriasis—insights from a global registry–based study.” jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(20)31413-5/abstract