Wachter Sees Bright Future for Hospital Medicine


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—One might think that in today's ever-churning healthcare environment that is directing much of its ire to hospitals, Bob Wachter, MD, MHM, might be nervous about the future of the specialty he helped name. But Dr. Wachter, chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, really isn't worried.

He believes HM's reputation as "generalists able to solve all kinds of problems" means the specialty is poised to adapt and thrive, he told a crowded ballroom at HM13's final keynote address yesterday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

The annual plenary session was the effective wrap-up of SHM's four-day annual meeting, which drew some 2,700 attendees.

"We will morph into what is needed," he said. "That will be all sorts of things: comanagement, dealing with the residency limits in teaching hospitals, systems improvement, cost reductions, transitions, working in skilled nursing facilities, all the specialty hospitalists…we will fill new niches."

Watch a 2-minute video excerpt from Dr. Wachter's HM13 keynote address

What Dr. Wachter does not want to see is that the field grows "fat and happy" as it is now firmly entrenched in the U.S. healthcare delivery system. In fact, he urged hospitalists to welcome change, particularly initiatives that improve quality and safety, reduce costs, and, ultimately, improve the patient experience.

"You can't survive and thrive in a world with the kinds of pressures that we have to improve performance, if you do business the same old way," he added. "It's no longer possible to achieve the things you need to achieve handling these as single projects. You need to transform the way you think about care."

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