Wachter to Examine ‘Great Physicians’ at HM12


Let’s face it: Robert Wachter, MD, MHM, has a way with words.

The man who co-dubbed the term “hospitalist” has used his vocabulary wisely in his career, from his day jobs as professor and chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine and chief of the medical service at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center to his appointment as a 2012 Fulbright Scholar, which took him to London, to his nascent title of chair-elect for the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

And yet the author of the HM blog Wachter’s World ( might best be known for the penultimate address he delivers at SHM’s annual meeting. This year he takes center stage at the San Diego Convention Center at noon April 4, capping HM12.

So, without further adieu, Dr. Wachter, in his own words:

A great hospitalist will welcome accountability and measurement and transparency.

—Robert Wachter, MD, MHM

  • On how to keep his talks fresh after nearly 15 years: “It’s increasingly a struggle. One of the things that’s fun about the hospitalist field is that we are so linked to the changes in the world of healthcare, both having to pay a lot of attention to them and, to some extent, leading them. As long as the world of healthcare changes, there’s new content.”
  • On his HM12 address, “The Great Physician, Circa 2012”: How Hospitalists Must Lead Efforts to Identify and Become This New Breed”: “I’ve been thinking more and more about the role of individual physicians. Part of that is opportunistic, in that I’m becoming the chair of the ABIM in July. If you’re in charge of the largest accreditation group for doctors, certainly in the county, you have to think pretty deeply about what is good and competent, and what does a great physician look like? … That line of thinking got me to then settle on a theme for this year: What does the great physician in 2012 look like? How do we train such a person? What is the mental model for that person? And how do we ensure in our field that we are both producing those people and creating a field and a professional society that encourages them and nurtures them and ensures that we are at the cutting edge?”
  • On what a great hospitalist looks like in 2012: “A great hospitalist will welcome accountability and measurement and transparency. He or she will be absolutely comfortable being a member of, and a leader of, or a nonleader of, high-functioning teams. He or she will be comfortable with working through some challenging questions about what things do I need to do versus what things can others do more effectively, or as effectively, but at a lower cost. The great hospitalist now and the great doctor in the future will recognize that delivering high-quality, safe, and patient-centric care that is agnostic about how much that case costs is no longer ethical.”
  • On where HM stands in its evolution as a specialty: “I’ve talked before about our field being in its adolescence. We’re rapidly reaching the adult phase where the kind of slack you gave your kid or even your teenager for transgressions, well, no one’s going to give us anymore.
  • On what leadership looks like in the face of generational healthcare reform: “We should be the canaries in the coal mine, the first ones to notice that there are important changes afoot. We’ll also be the first ones that feel pressures to change ourselves in response to these forces. And the first ones to really lead the charge. I think we saw that a decade ago, with respect to safety and quality. I think we also saw it when we embraced the importance of coordination of care and communication and teamwork.”

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