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Robert M. Wachter

Robert M. Wachter

Authority on Patient Safety & Healthcare Quality


The wired world of healthcare is our future. It’s up to us – as patients, physicians, policy makers, vendors, leaders and influencers – to not only make it happen, but make it work. Dr. Robert Wachter is helping champion the cause. Read More >

Named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 most influential physician executives in the U.S. for 2016 (9th year in a row) and one of the 100 most influential people in healthcare, Dr. Wachter is a recognized thought leader in healthcare quality, safety and organization of care. A practicing physician, he is intimately familiar with and involved in both the promises and challenges related to the computerization of healthcare. His latest book – “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age” (April 2015) – offers an unvarnished view of the early days of healthcare’s transformation (a so-far untold story), and an insightful and provocative exploration of what it will take, from all of us, to successfully shift from “disruption” to “disruptive innovation.”

Currently a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco where he directs the 60-physician Division of Hospital Medicine, Dr. Wachter coined the term “hospitalist” in 1996 and is generally regarded as the “father” of the hospitalist field, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine.

A speaker and writer renowned for his iconoclastic and often humorous insights into the transforming world of healthcare, Dr. Wachter’s blog, www.wachtersworld.org, is one of the nation’s most popular healthcare blogs. He edits the U.S. government’s two leading websites on safety – the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s WebM&M and PSNet – and is the author of 250 articles and six books, including two best-sellers on the subject of safety and quality: “Understanding Patient Safety” (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2012 – second edition), the field’s leading primer, and “Internal Bleeding” (Rugged Land, 2005).

Dr. Wachter is past president of the Society of Hospital Medicine (1999-2000) and past chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine (2012-2013). In 2004, he received the John M. Eisenberg Award, the nation’s top honor in patient safety. He is on the board of the Lucian Leape Institute of the National Patient Safety Foundation, and has also served on the healthcare advisory boards of several companies, including Google. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

The Quality, Safety & Value Movements: Why Transforming the Delivery of Healthcare is No Longer Elective

Dr. Wachter reviews the brief history of the quality and safety movements, the new push for “value” (quality plus safety plus patient satisfaction, divided by cost), and how all of these levers (accreditation, regulation, transparency, payment          changes) are combining to create unprecedented pressure on caregivers and delivery organizations to change their ways of doing business. Rather than being depressed, audiences leave with a deep understanding of healthcare’s new landscape, and a road map (and some optimism) for success in this new world.

Understanding Patient Safety

For anyone seeking to learn the core clinical, organizational, and systems issues of patient safety, this keynote is filled with valuable information and tools designed to make the patient safety field understandable to medical, nursing, pharmacy, hospital administration, and other trainees. Dr. Wachter delivers key insights to help you understand and prevent a broad range of errors, including those related to medications, surgery, diagnosis, infections, and nursing care. He will provide a practical overview of how to organize an effective safety program, in both hospitals and clinics.

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 Wachter’s best-selling book, Internal Bleeding, and can be paired with a book-signing event. This keynote speech is suitable for novices, experts, and even lay audiences.

The First Decade of the Patient Safety Movement: Successes, Failures, Surprises & Epiphanies

A policy-oriented speech, this keynote is more suitable for advanced audiences (leaders in quality and safety, for example). The keynote speech chronicles what is working and not working (regulation, IT, teamwork training, workforce issues, accountability, etc.) in our efforts to prevent medical mistakes.

The Tension between ‘Accountability’ and ‘No Blame’: The Key Conundrum in the Patient Safety Field

Every hospital is struggling with how to balance these two seemingly competing approaches to patient safety. In this talk, Wachter describes the arguments for the two approaches, and lays out a balanced model that embraces “no blame” and systems thinking when it is the right strategy, but does not shy away from accountability as the appropriate response to clinicians’ failure to heed key safety practices.

Consequences (Expected & Otherwise) of the Quality & Information Technology Revolutions

In this slightly contrarian keynote on the consequences of the quality and information technology revolutions, 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.

The Hospitalist Movement 15 Years Later: Key Issues for the Second Decade

Wachter coined the term “hospitalist” in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996. In this keynote, Wachter covers the forces driving the growth of the field, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine, and what the future has in store.

The ‘Great Physician’ of 2013: Embracing the New Without Abandoning the Good Parts of the Old

The pressures to mint a new type of physician—one more focused on teamwork and systems—are strong and largely correct. In this talk, Dr. Wachter reviews why it is critical that physicians embrace these new skills and attitudes, but also highlights some of the unanticipated and potentially negative consequences of an unbalanced move away from the traditional emphasis on individual excellence.