A Q&A With Me in Today’s New York Times

The interview, by Pauline Chen, the surgeon and NY Times author who writes the terrific “Doctor and Patient” column on-line, is here — it mostly focuses on my thoughts about patient safety 10 years into the movement. The story and topic were also picked up by Tara Parker-Pope in her “Well” blog, and the comments are already coming fast and furious. I had put the Kevlar vest away after the feedback from my New England Journal piece on “‘no blame’ vs. accountability” turned out to be surprisingly benign, but I may need to pull it out of deep storage. Patient safety generates such deep passions; it’s one of the things that makes thinking about and trying to improve it so damn interesting.

I’ve taken a bit of a blog break but will have a couple of pre-holiday posts in the next few days, one on our Root Cause Analysis epiphany at UCSF, and another one profiling the most creative researcher in all of medicine. Stay tuned. 



  1. Molly Coye on December 18, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Bob – I’m on east coast time so saw this early – great interview and tough line to sell. Maybe more personal accountability will cause clinicians to actually press for the system changes that can support better performance on their part – like adopting CPOE…Molly

  2. Terry on December 18, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    “The challenge, though, is to standardize care in a way that will improve safety while retaining the parts that make medicine human.”

    Sounds like a good way to define “meaningful use” in the HITECH world.

  3. Robert on December 19, 2009 at 1:05 am

    Dr. Wachter gave a great interview. I agree that there is a lot more that needs to be done to improve patient safety.

  4. Brian Clay, MD on December 19, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Read through the WellBlog comment thread. You don’t need Kevlar, you need a fully stocked concrete bunker!

    10 years on, and we just need to keep pushing. In my own patient safety work areas (IT/CPOE/medication reconciliation), it’s easily recognizable as a marathon, not a sprint.

    Ever forward.

  5. Siva Subramanian on December 31, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Great interview and looks like a serious discussion in the photograph 🙂

    One particular comment you make is of particular interest to me –
    “You can standardize certain parts of care based on clear evidence, which will free up doctors to focus on those pieces of the health care puzzle where there is no data — those issues that are uniquely human and that require judgment, expertise and empathy.”

    I have been researching the discharge process and its implications to preventable readmissions. There seem to be enough good reasons to improve discharge process in addition to reduction of readmissions (patient safety). There also seems to be a mountain of data around what works, what is broken, what are best practices etc. And yet, I have not come across any effort to “standardize” the discharge process.

    Would this be one of the areas that you would recommend standardization of care per your comment? Has there been any attempt to drive such standardization of discharge processes or at least the discharge summary? Can you or your readers shed some light on this?


    Health IT Guy

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