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Dr. Jonathan Gruber is the Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Director of the Healthcare Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Highly involved in healthcare public policy, he was a key architect of Massachusetts’ health reform efforts, “Romneycare” from 2003 to 2006. As a technical consultant to the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2010, he helped develop the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Gruber discusses his healthcare reform experiences and shares his predictions for the future of healthcare with American Healthcare Journal staff writer, Caroline Miller.

The coronavirus pandemic will spur major changes in the dialysis world, particularly when providing services to patients residing in the epicenters of the pandemic: nursing homes. More than one-third of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths are nursing home residents. There are nearly half a million hemodialysis patients in the United States, and more than 10 percent of these patients spend time at a nursing home at some point during a calendar year. This reflects both the vulnerability of the elderly population to COVID-19 infection and the difficulty in containing infection in these sequestered communities with residents living closely together.

We may not be at the point where you overhear your surgeon saying, “Hey, Google, pass the scalpel,” but artificial intelligence (AI) is gradually making its way into the healthcare industry and, by extension, dermatology and plastic surgery practices. Even in its limited use, AI is already helping providers offer their patients better care, whether it’s preop, in the OR or during the recovery process.

As a result of legal requirements driven by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, outpatient providers have seen an unprecedented drop in patient volume and demand for healthcare services since mid-March. Demand reduction has varied by specialty; however, most providers have experienced drops of at least 60 percent, with some as high as 100 percent. Now, as states begin to reopen, healthcare providers have a critical window to plan to capture as much pent-up demand as possible. It is yet to be seen how much of this demand will be “captured” versus “destroyed;” however, providers can take proactive steps now to optimize practice economics, cash positions and long-term practice strength.

If you think you are completely safe being cared for in a hospital, you need to think again. Medical errors remain one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Most of these errors are caused by human error and are preventable. In fact, these errors are mainly miscommunications between providers on any given patient case. Because patient safety needs to be a priority, we must find ways to rethink how we treat patients.