In about two weeks, patients of Dr. Harold Lancer will again be able to get their various skin-care fixes, but the Beverly Hills office is taking a strict approach to reopening.
“Some of my staff have been with me over 30 years and it runs like a well-oiled machine, even with a pandemic,” Lancer said. “So I’ve had the ability to fine-tune, without having to make wild claims of putting in UV lights or anything like that.”
But gone are the days of being able to simply walk into a waiting room full of Los Angeles elites in the dermatologist’s Beverly Hills office — where Lancer treats patients like Ellen Degeneres, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian, along with models, politicians and heads of industry looking for new skin treatments or a tune up of filler or Botox. Not only will there be no more walk-ins allowed in the office at all, but the number of patients seen in a day is being drastically reduced — only three people will be allowed in the waiting room at a given time, and all will be required when scheduling an appointment to disclose any signs of or exposure to the coronavirus. Patients will be asked again one day before their visit.
Lancer said before voluntarily closing his office in March, before it was state ordered, it was seeing between 30 and 40 patients a day. When he starts the second week of May a “soft” reopening of his 12,000-square-foot office on Rodeo Drive, where he’s had his solo practice for more than 30 years, it will only be him and three staffers, and they will see only 10 patients a day. None of his 20-person staff has been furloughed or given reduced pay, and the office did not apply for a government loan.
Daily patients will slowly increase each week by a few a day as office hours extend, but Lancer will stick to a new schedule of only one patient every 30 minutes. Neither he nor a single member of his staff has contracted the coronavirus. He noted only one high-profile celebrity patient of his had, and she’s since made a full recovery.
“I have a backlog of patients scheduled already through July,” Lancer said. “But slowly, as the office staff and patient base feel comfortable with the new routine, we’ll get back to normal. Sometime by August, it’ll be as though nothing happened in terms of seeing patients.”
Beyond limiting the number of people allowed in the office at all, once a patient arrives, they will receive a temperature screening at the front desk and anyone who is found with even a low-grade fever will be asked to reschedule. If a patient arrives and there are already three people in the waiting room, the person will be asked to wait in their car and will be called when the office is ready to see them. He also maintains his own cleaning crew and is increasing their duties from twice a day to multiple times a day.
Should there be another surge in cases of COVID-19 later this year — Lancer is assuming it will happen based on his research and that “it’s the nature of humanity to misbehave” — the measures he’s putting in now, along with more experience in telemedicine, will leave his office in a good position.
“We’ll know how to handle it and the office will be tip-top prepared.”
But Lancer is looking forward to getting patients back in the office. He’s been receiving “at least” 20 texts or calls a day for the past nearly two months from patients (several of his nurses have been getting just as many; his active patient base numbers 30,000) with various skin concerns. Although many have been problems of patients’ own making.
“Let me tell you, I deal with an intelligent population of people and people who are intelligent sometimes get impatient, so they will sometimes seek out a bizarre home treatment,” Lancer said. “When you try to do a touch-up filler at home, that presents a problem. Patients who order chemical peels online for home use, that’s a problem.
“But it all works out well,” he added. “You have to be able to instill confidence in your patient base.”
In an effort to do that and push his practice along, Lancer made the decision to purchase four new treatment machines, including a plasma generator, for his practice. They’ll be available soon upon reopening, certain of which will offer therapies completely new to the U.S.
“The concept is to come back better and stronger,” Lancer said. “The additions were not planned, but being closed gave me the idea to augment the toolkit we have. And being able to do so will instill confidence in the clinic crew and the patient base.”
However, Lancer’s confidence in his professional community has been shaken during the pandemic. He’s heard of dermatological practices in New York, London and L.A. staying open and treating patients throughout the last several weeks, as well as some practitioners willing to make home visits for patients eager for a tune-up during lockdown.
“I’ve been shocked,” he said. “It’s totally insane. It is not life-threatening therapies that need to be done.”
His general advice to patients eager to have lines filled, pores reduced and glow induced, even to those who may have a more serious concern, like an oddly shaped freckle, is: “Take a deep breath and don’t be in a hurry.”