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As 2019 draws to a close, Murad Alam, MD, Vice-Chair of Dermatology and Professor of Dermatology, Otolaryngology, and Surgery and Chief of the Section of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, took some time to reflect on the year in dermatology as well as share insights on what may come in 2020 and beyond. As the immediate past president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), Dr. Alam had a front row seat to the year’s biggest stories. Here’s what he had to say.

2019 was the year of….

Murad Alam, MD: PRP. Platelet-rich plasma was the wonder treatment of 2019. It is most commonly used for age-related or hormonal hair loss but is also used for facial rejuvenation and treatment of acne scars. PRP appears very safe, and patients do well with it and appear to like it. We need more research on how it works, how best to use it, and how best to combine it with other treatments.

2020 will be the year of…

Dr. Alam: Stem cells for rejuvenation. In reality, stem cell treatments may not come to fruition next year, as they will likely take many years to develop and refine. At present, the promise far outweighs the reality. Competent research, carefully and safely done, will eventually lead to better therapies, which will be administered by skilled, board-certified dermatologists who understand the proper use of these powerful therapies of the future.

Stem cells offer the promise of scarless surgery, replacement of lost or damaged skin, and dramatic reduction of the visible signs of aging.

The main take away from the 2019 ASDS consumer survey was….

Dr. Alam: When it comes to treatment of skin conditions and skin cancer, as well as treatments to improve the appearance of the skin, educated, informed patients continue to prefer to get their care from board-certified dermatologists.

Do you think we will see a change or shift in factors related to buying decisions in 2020?

Dr. Alam: Social media is clearly here to stay. Younger patients rely increasingly heavily on social media for purchasing decisions in terms of the providers they choose and the treatments they prefer. Those who provide cosmetic services will need to meet the needs of these younger, more social media sophisticated patients, while continuing to serve the older, more established groups that continue to account for much of their practice volumes.

What trends are here to stay—and which will go the way of the wind?

Dr. Alam: Patients will continue to have increasing control over their clinical care. From setting up in-person clinical appointments through an online interface, to having electronic access to their own medical records, to being able to communicate directly with their dermatologists day and night, patients will stay in the driver’s seat. Physicians will need to adjust to this less paternalistic, more patient-centered care model.

In the next decade, I’d like to see…

Dr. Alam: Expertise valued once again. Everything goes around, and eventually, at least some patients may tire of pursuing the least expensive, most accessible care. Instead, like with other premium products, medical care and cosmetic treatments may be selected based on their quality and reputation, with clinical expertise and board certification being sought after attributes of the ideal physician.

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