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Dr. Robert Wachter - Hospitalist Pioneer
Dr. Robert Wachter - Hospitalist Pioneer


   Robert M. Wachter, MD is Professor and Associate Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where he holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine.  He is also Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine, and Chief of the Medical Service at UCSF Medical Center.  He has published 200 articles and 6 books in the fields of quality, safety, and health policy.  He coined the term “hospitalist” in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article, served as the first elected president of the Society of Hospital Medicine, and edits the field’s main textbook.  He is generally considered the academic leader of the hospitalist movement, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine.

   He is also a national leader in the fields of patient safety and healthcare quality.  He is editor of AHRQ WebM&M (, a case-based patient safety journal on the Web, and AHRQ Patient Safety Network (, the leading federal patient safety portal.  Together, the sites receive nearly two million visitors a year.  He has written two bestselling books on patient safety: Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America’s Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes (Rugged Land, 2004), and Understanding Patient Safety (McGraw-Hill, 2008).  Dr. Wachter has discussed patient safety and quality on Good Morning America, PBS’s NewsHour, Imus in the Morning, CNN’s American Morning, CBS Sunday Morning, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and been quoted in virtually every major newspaper and newsmagazine.  He received one of the 2004 John M. Eisenberg Awards, the nation’s top honor in patient safety.  In 2008, Modern Healthcare magazine named him the 19th most influential physician-executive in the United States (the most highly placed academic physician on the list).  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine and is on the healthcare advisory boards of several companies, including Google.  


Most Popular Talks:

   Dr. Wachter's talks tend to be engaging, dramatic, iconoclastic, and funny.   

1) Use Your Words: The New Language of Healthcare Reform

   Dr. Wachter describe why certain terms emerged during the healthcare debate that -- even if there is no comprehensive reform this year -- will help define all discussions about healthcare for years to come. This is a humorous talk that puts what seemed like political football into some context, illustrating some of the key issues around the cost and quality of healthcare. The terms are things like:

"Clinical effectiveness research"
"Bundled Payments"
"Accountable Care Organizations"
"Death Panels"
"Dartmouth Atlas" and "McAllen, Texas"
"You Lie"
And a few others.

2)    “What We Need to Know and Do to Cure our Epidemic of Medical Mistakes.”
  A case-based, dramatic talk that describes a new way to think about medical errors and a new approach to this modern epidemic.  It is the Cliff Notes version of my bestselling book, Internal Bleeding, and some conferences like to pair it with a book-signing event.  The talk is suitable for novices, experts, and even lay audiences.

Related reading:  Wachter RM, Shojania KG.  Internal Bleeding:  The Truth Behind America’s Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes.  New York:  Rugged Land, 2004.

Wachter RM.  Understanding Patient Safety.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

3)    “The End of the Beginning:  Patient Safety Eight Years after the IOM Report on Medical Errors.”  A more policy-oriented talk than #1, and more appropriate for advanced audiences (leaders in quality and safety, for example).  The talk chronicles what is working and not working (regulation, IT, teamwork training, workforce issues, accountability, etc.) in our efforts to prevent medical mistakes.

Related reading:  Wachter RM. The end of the beginning:  Patient safety five years after ‘To Err is Human.’  Health Affairs, November 30, 2004; W4: 534-45.

4)    “Consequences (Expected and Otherwise) of the Quality and Information Technology Revolutions.”  The talk is a slightly contrarian view of these trends, two of the most dominant issues facing health care today.  Most talks on these issues are dry and pat; clinical audiences leave this talk thinking about these topics in a new, fresh way.

Related reading:  Wachter RM.  Expected and unanticipated consequences of the quality and information technology revolutions.  Journal of the American Medical Association 2006; 295:2780-3.

5)    “The Hospitalist Movement 10 Years Later:  Key Issues for the Second Decade.”  Dr. Wachter coined the term “hospitalist” in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996.  He covers the forces driving the growth of the field, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine, and what the next decade has in store.

Related readings:

·       Wachter RM, Goldman L.  The emerging role of “hospitalists” in the American health care system.  New England Journal of Medicine 1996; 335:514-7.

·       Wachter RM and Goldman L.  The hospitalist movement 5 years later.  Journal of the American Medical Association 2002; 282:487-494.

·       Wachter RM.  Hospitalists in the United States:  Mission accomplished or work-in-progress.  New England Journal of Medicine 2004; 350: 1935-6.

Other Talks:  In addition to the above talks, he can also speak on a variety of more specific topics in safety and quality, including:

·       “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch: The Role of Culture in Patient Safety”

·       ”Medicare’s “No Pay for Errors” Initiative: The Devil is in the Details”

·       “Why Diagnostic Errors Get No Respect… And What Can Be Done To Fix That”

·       “Is Ambulatory Safety Just Like Hospital Safety… Only Without the Stat?”

·       The Tension Between “Accountability” and “No Blame”:  The Key Conundrum in the Patient Safety Field.

Any of these talks can be a breakout, along with a keynote or plenary from the above list.

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