Posts by Bob Wachter

Diagnostic Errors: Central to Patient Safety, Yet Still In the Periphery of Safety’s Radar Screen

In 2008, I gave the keynote address at the first “Diagnostic Errors in Medicine” conference, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The meeting was filled with people from a wide variety of disciplines, including clinical medicine, education, risk management, cognitive science, and informatics, all passionate about making diagnosis safer. The atmosphere was electric. My lecture was entitled, “Why diagnostic errors don't get any respect” (I wrote up the speech in my blog and a Health Affairs article, shown) My talk was, admittedly, a downer. Highlighting the fact that diagnostic errors are arguably the most important patient safety hazard (they accounted for 17% of the adverse events in the famous Harvard Medical Practice Study and are usually the number one cause of harm in malpractice cases), I pointed out that from the very start of the patient safety field, relatively little attention had been paid to them.…

#MomInHospital

A few weeks ago, a middle-aged man decided to tweet about his mother’s illness from her bedside. The tweets went viral and became the subject of a national conversation. The man, of course, was NPR anchorman Scott Simon, and his reflections about his mother’s illness and ultimate death are poignant, insightful, and well worth your time. Those same days, and unaware of Simon’s real-time reports, I also found myself caring for my hospitalized mother, and I made the same decision – to tweet from the bedside. (As with Simon’s mom, mine didn’t quite understand what Twitter is, but trusted her son that this was a good thing to do.) Being with my mother during a four-day inpatient stay offered a window into how things actually work at my own hospital, where I’ve practiced for three decades, and into the worlds of hospital care and patient safety, my professional passions. In…

Medicare’s Most Maddening Policy… and Why CMS’s Attempts to Improve It May Make it Worse

Today is my last day as chair of the ABIM, and the end of my eight-year tenure on the Board. In this blog – a bookend to the one I wrote at the start of the year, which went near-viral – I’ll describe some of our accomplishments this year and a few of the challenges that I leave my talented successors to grapple with. I had two very tangible tasks to accomplish during my chairmanship. First, after a decade-long tenure as CEO and President of ABIM, Chris Cassel announced her intention to step down. (Chris is now CEO of the National Quality Forum, which is increasingly crucial in a world looking for robust measures of quality, safety, and value.) After an extensive search, we selected Richard Baron to become ABIM’s new CEO, and Rich began earlier this month. Rich is one of the most impressive people I’ve met in healthcare,…

Reflections On My Year as Chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine

Today is my last day as chair of the ABIM, and the end of my eight-year tenure on the Board. In this blog – a bookend to the one I wrote at the start of the year, which went near-viral – I’ll describe some of our accomplishments this year and a few of the challenges that I leave my talented successors to grapple with. I had two very tangible tasks to accomplish during my chairmanship. First, after a decade-long tenure as CEO and President of ABIM, Chris Cassel announced her intention to step down. (Chris is now CEO of the National Quality Forum, which is increasingly crucial in a world looking for robust measures of quality, safety, and value.) After an extensive search, we selected Richard Baron to become ABIM’s new CEO, and Rich began earlier this month. Rich is one of the most impressive people I’ve met in healthcare,…

My New Job

I have a new job! It requires me to be sophisticated but accessible, assertive but diplomatic, literary but not highfalutin. Unfortunately, it comes with no office, no salary, and no chance for promotion. No, after nearly 30 years at UCSF, I haven’t quit my day job. But I have taken on a moonlighting gig. I’m the Self-Appointed Regional Marketing Director for my wife Katie Hafner’s soon-to-be-published memoir, Mother Daughter Me. In this blog, I’ll share a few observations about my new role and the way the world of bookselling has changed. My hope is that you find this world as interesting as I do… and (since I do have a job to do) that you end up buying the book. (Here!!!) This is Katie’s sixth book, but the first one that is remotely personal; her others were non-fiction, covering the history of the Internet, computer hackers, the reunification of Germany,…
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