When Robert Wachter, MD, MHM, graduated from medical school in 1983, he thought he knew what a great doctor was. When he gave the penultimate address to a packed house at the Society of Hospital Medicine’s annual meeting in San Diego on Wednesday, he said that definition has changed—and will continue to evolve as hospitalists tackle the challenges of delivering high-value, cost-conscious care in an age of healthcare reform.
“We need to be great team players, but we also need to be great leaders,” said Dr. Wachter, professor and chief of the division of hospital medicine. chief of the medical service at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and chair-elect for the American Board of Internal Medicine. “We need to embrace useful technology, but we can’t be slaves to it … improve systems of care, but welcome personal and group accountability. Strive for a balanced life but remember medicine is more a calling than a job. And think about the patients’ needs before our own. These are core and enduring values even as we move into this new era.”
Dr. Wachter’s plenary, titled “The Great Physician, Circa 2012: How Hospitalists Must Lead Efforts to Identify and Become This New Breed,” highlighted the balance HM practitioners must find in an increasingly complex healthcare system. He suggested hospitalists view themselves as technologically savvy “lifelong learners” whose reputation for systems improvement positions them perfectly to champion reform.
“We have big targets on us and I think they are appropriate,” said Dr. Wachter. “There are others who should have targets as well, but the main target has to be us. Change is impossible if we don’t embrace change.”