Where do you draw the line when it comes to treating sick patients?
It’s a tough call – on the one hand, turning away business that often results in a loss is never a favorable choice for a business owner or manager to make. But on the other, you may be posing a more serious threat to your staff, and to the clients themselves, than you realised – even when it comes to something as common as a cold sore, writes Mala McAlpin.
Youth Lab, a leading medical aesthetics clinic in Perth, is one clinic whose unwell policy is firm, and for good reason. We hear from Medical Director Dr Kate and Clinic Coordinator Lili on the associated risks of illness within a clinic environment, and why having policies and procedures in place may be the best course of action.
Tell us about your policy and what makes it so important to the clinic
We have a strict Policy at Youth Lab where we do not perform any treatments on patients or clients who may be unwell. We take this policy very seriously. We advise all clients to contact the clinic if they are unwell or have any active infection to allow us to reschedule their appointment.
This is first and foremost for the health and safety of our staff to ensure that they are not at risk of being unwell. As a business owner it is of utmost importance for my staff to be well and functioning at the best of their ability. If a staff member is ill, they will be required to have time from work which requires us to reschedule clients and this can be very difficult as we are heavily booked. It obviously has financial implications for the business too.
In addition, when our staff are unwell they are also at risk of passing this to their families, clients and the families of our clients.
At Youth Lab we also have some clients who have impaired immunity visiting us, therefore if we have unwell staff or clients in the clinic this will expose them to possible infections and can be detrimental to their health.
What risks are associated with treating unwell clients?
The risks are dependent on the treatment that they are undertaking and the type of infection or illness that they have. For example, in this winter flu season, any respiratory illness can easily be spread to other clients in the waiting room as well as the staff member performing the treatment due to airborne spread of the virus. Plus we all know how quickly a gastro outbreak can spread…
We also do not treat clients who may have an active skin infection for example. Cold sores are a common complaint we see where a client may still seek a facial treatment or injectables without knowing that the virus can spread to other areas of the face as well as to their practitioner.
We also have client wellbeing in mind, if the body is fighting an active infection, they are at risk of their body confusing the treatment as a threat (through an upregulated immune response). This can particularly be with the injectable treatments such as dermal filler and cause ongoing complications.
When the body is unwell it is also a lot more fragile. This can cause the client to be a lot more sensitive to pain and slower recovery time, which is not pleasant for some of the treatments that we provide. We want our clients to have the best experience possible which is of course limited when they are under the weather.
How do you ensure all clients know about the policy before they arrive?
When a client makes an appointment at Youth Lab they will receive a confirmation email with all of our clinic information. Within this information we have dedicated a paragraph requesting unwell clients to please reschedule within a timely manner, preferably within 24 hours as per our standard cancellation policy. However we are very flexible if a client calls up unwell on the day of their appointment.
We have also created social media posts to ensure that clients are aware from multiple platforms.
Do you sometimes turn people away upon their arrival because they are unwell?
Yes, unfortunately we have to. Many of our clients will advise us prior to their treatment if they are unwell which will enable us to reschedule them at a timely manner for when they will be better. However unfortunately if clients do arrive and we believe that they may be infectious then we will be required to cancel their appointment and move it to another date. This may also incur a late cancellation fee.
Who would be responsible if a negative outcome were to occur due to patient illness?
This is a tough one. Ultimately the blame will fall onto the clinic and/or the practitioner if an adverse reaction did occur due to illness. Especially if our informed consent procedure, which excludes treatments being performed if a client or patient is unwell, is not followed correctly. It is our responsibility as a clinic and practitioners to have the safety and wellbeing of our clients as a priority.
The treatments that we undertake at Youth Lab are medical based treatments therefore they already have associated risks. When a patient is unwell this can cause the body to react differently to the treatment, which can sometimes be unpredictable. Therefore it is in the best interests for the practitioner, clinic and client to postpone treatment.
What kind of feedback have you received, including from clients and from your team?
Clients are very understanding when we do have to reschedule their appointment, even more so when we advise of the risk of complications to their treatment. Our team is completely on board with this policy, ultimately it is their health and the health of their families that are at risk.
Would you recommend the policy to other clinics?
Absolutely! I would be concerned if a clinic didn’t have this in place to protect their staff and clients. Particularly this winter in which the flu season has been particularly serious, we want to minimise the risk for everyone.