Fifteen years ago, Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, said his hospital would rapidly launch an electronic health record system that would digitize a patient’s medical information, making it instantly available to the hospital’s clinical teams.

As it happened, it took longer than he expected for health care to take full advantage of technological advances. But after years of frustration, Wachter is now optimistic.

“I actually came to see that we’re in the early parts of a very long journey,” he said in a 2021 webinar for Health Risk Advisors. “I really do believe this is all going to work out for the better –for patients, for health systems, for clinicians.”

An elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, Wachter will discuss the changes in technology during a free public lecture, “The Digital Transformation of Healthcare: (Finally) a Time for Optimism,” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10.

His talk is part of the 12th season of the Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture Series, hosted by the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.

“Dr. Wachter has for nearly 20 years been one of the nation’s most influential thought leaders on the health care system in the United States. He coined the term ‘hospitalist’ for physicians who focus primarily on hospitalized patients and is considered a father of the field,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology. “His voice is crucial to hear now, at a time when the pandemic is straining hospitals and accelerating the use of telemedicine and other technological advances to streamline clinical care, and we’re fortunate for our community, including our clinical colleagues at Carilion Clinic and Children’s National Hospital, to be able to hear from him.”

Wachter believes that the health care industry’s complete digital transformation will ultimately require not only technological advancement, but also generational change – younger people coming into the workplace and disrupting the way things are done.

“You need people who don’t remember that old way of doing it thinking about it in a digital-first way. And they transform the way the work is done,” Wachter said in the webinar.

A recognized source of information on the clinical, public health, and policy issues surrounding the pandemic, Wachter’s Twitter feed has more than 250,000 followers. He is the author of “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age,” a New York Times science bestseller, and the textbook “Patient Safety,” now in its third edition.

He is a Master of the American College of Physicians and of the Society of Hospital Medicine, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and a member of the Society for Internal Medicine. In 2016 he was given the Founders Award for contributions to the field of clinical quality improvement by the American College of Medical Quality.

Wachter earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

This lecture is free and may be viewed via Zoom or live webcast on the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute website.

Share this story