Robert Pearl Profile

  • Named one of the "most powerful physician leaders in the nation," Dr. Pearl is a highly sought speaker due to his sound analysis of the shortcomings of the American healthcare system and viable proposals to improve it.

  • A practicing physician, Dr. Pearl was the CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, the nation's largest medical group, from 1999 to 2017.

  • Dr. Pearl is the author of the best-selling book, Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Healthcare—And Why Were Usually Wrong.
  • Healthcare speaker, Dr. Robert Pearl provides a sound look at the shortcomings of the American healthcare system and what can be done to turn it around. As a practicing physician, medical professor, former CEO of the nation’s largest medical group, and the son of a patient who died from an easily avoidable medical error, Dr. Pearl views one of the U.S.’s most pressing issues from multiple angles. His best-selling book Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Healthcare—And Why Were Usually Wrong presents an accessible roadmap for fixing the broken American healthcare system by embracing a prepaid model of care in which physician-led multispecialty groups are connected and enabled with advanced information technology.

    For 18 years, Dr. Pearl fostered a cooperative culture at The Permanente Medical Group, where he oversaw over 9,000 physicians and 35,000 staff members providing care to 5 million patients throughout California and the Mid-Atlantic Coast. After the death of his father from a preventable medical error, Dr. Pearl was motivated to tackle health care at a national level. He wrote Mistreated and began speaking full-time across the country, sharing ways that American health care could be improved. He has presented at the World Healthcare Congress multiple times, the Brookings Institution, Stanford Medicine X, and the Healthcare Innovation Summit, as well as many other events in which health and technology intersect.

    Dr. Pearl’s insights have frequently been featured by major media outlets including CBS This Morning, CNBC, NPR, TIME, USA Today and Bloomberg News. He has published over 100 articles in medical journals and is ranked by Modern Healthcare as one of the most powerful physician leaders in the nation.

    A faculty member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Dr. Pearl teaches courses on health technology, strategy, and leadership. Additionally, he has been a visiting professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Haas School of Business and Harvard School of Public Health.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Dr. Robert Pearl is the former CEO of The Permanente Medical Group (1999-2017), the nation’s largest medical group, and former president of The Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group (2009-2017). In these roles he led 10,000 physicians, 38,000 staff and was responsible for the nationally recognized medical care of 5 million Kaiser Permanente members on the west and east coasts. Recently named one of Modern Healthcare’s 50 most influential physician leaders, Pearl is an advocate for the power of integrated, prepaid, technologically advanced and physician-led healthcare delivery.

      He serves as a clinical professor of plastic surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and is on the faculty of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he teaches courses on strategy and leadership, and lectures on information technology and health care policy.

      In 2017 he authored Mistreated: Why We think We’re Getting Good Healthcare—And Why We’re Usually Wrong a Washington Post bestseller that offers a road map for transforming American healthcare. All proceeds from the book go to Doctors Without Borders.

      As a regular contributor to Forbes, Pearl covers the business of healthcare and the culture of medicine. He has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNBC, NPR, and in TIME, USA Today and Bloomberg News. He has published more than 100 articles in various medical journals and contributed to numerous books. He is a frequent keynote speaker at healthcare and medical technology conferences. Pearl has addressed the Commonwealth Club, the World Healthcare Congress, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s National Quality Forum.

      Board certified in plastic and reconstructive surgery, Pearl received his medical degree from the Yale University School of Medicine, followed by a residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Stanford University. From 2012 to 2017, Pearl served as chairman of the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP), which includes the nation’s largest and best multispecialty medical groups, and participated in the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Delivery System Reform and Health IT in Washington, D.C.

    Robert Pearl Speaking Videos

    Bring Robert Pearl to Speak Live at Your Event


    Check Speaker Availability

    Robert Pearl's Speech Descriptions

    Healthcare speaker and former CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, Dr. Robert Pearl offers a fascinating transparent look at the American healthcare system as he reveals why we receive surprisingly little value for the tremendous amount of money we spend as a nation and patients. He gets to the heart of what truly needs to change in healthcare – the way we perceive it and the way it is delivered. Motivated by the death of his own father which was caused by a miscommunication among physicians, Dr. Pearl presents a hopeful and viable proposal that includes restructuring our health care system and introducing technologies that will give us better clinical outcomes while reducing errors and costs.

    Dr. Pearl speaks frequently on the intersection of American healthcare, business and policy. Popular themes include:

  • Americans spend the most money on healthcare, yet our quality outcomes lag most industrialized nations: Why?
  • How does the context of American healthcare distort the perception and alter the behavior of doctors and patients?
  • What are the four pillars that will transform the future of our healthcare system?

    New Program: "Five Audacious Changes That Would Save Hundreds of Thousands of Lives Annually and Lower Costs by More Than 20%"

    Dr. Pearl begins this talk by having the audience think back a decade about healthcare. And then gets them to consider/tell him what is different today than in the past. Unless the audience obtained coverage through Medicaid or the individual exchange (rarely the people in the audience) the answer is "nothing".

    Dr. Pearl then discusses disruption and the threats that exist and recommends alternatives:

    1. The first is to close half of the hospitals in the United States and convert some of them to 24-hour ERs. We are in a vicious cycle where low volume hospitals and services drive up costs and produce unnecessary utilization. In this part, Dr. Pearl talks about all of the operational efficiencies possible and the success that his team achieved in Kaiser Permanente when he was a CEO at lowering utilization to half of the national average while making Kaiser Permanente the leader in quality based on the NCQA evaluations.

    2. Ask an organization like Leapfrog to define the volumes per procedure a surgeon must do and not pay doctors who fail to meet them. Not only does low volume lower quality, but it raises costs since physicians who "dabble" rarely take the time to improve performance. The example Dr. Pearl uses is total joints in which we went from a 3-day average length of stay to 60% of the procedures being done as an outpatient.

    3. Eliminate the 30% of procedures that add no value through a rigorous set of second opinions and centers of excellence.

    4. Provide "concierge" primary care to every patient. The mathematics is hard to explain in one line, but by investing about 1% of the total health care spend in primary care expansion, there is a 10% reduction in hospital, drug and specialty costs. Dr. Pearl uses various primary care groups with whom he has worked with as examples.

    5. Use technology including video, AI and smartphone embedded algorithms to help every patient get the same level of excellence in care regardless of where they live. Dr. Pearl uses specific example of what he has done to bring in consultative and specialist expertise from hundreds of miles away, to allow continuous patient monitoring when they are at home and identify patients on medical/surgical units who today seem fine but tomorrow will deteriorate and require ICU admission. By addressing their problems before they happen, mortality and cost are decreased by 75%.

    Depending on the group, Dr. Pearl closes with a call to action – either specific to a medical group, insurance organization, purchaser or lay audience. For health care professions, the point is change now or regret it later. For patients, it recognizes all that you are failing to receive and begin to demand it. For each point, there are stories and interesting research that engage the listener and cause them to leave with enthusiasm about what is possible.

  • Robert Pearl on Speaking

    I am thankful that organizations have asked me to speak on a variety of healthcare topics. Since the publication of my book Mistreated, popular themes often intersect the worlds of medical care, business and health policy.

    SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn/take away from your presentations?

    PEARL: I am thankful that organizations have asked me to speak on a variety of healthcare topics. Since the publication of my book Mistreated, popular themes often intersect the worlds of medical care, business and health policy. Because my presentations, depending on the audience, can focus on one or all of the “Four Pillars of Healthcare Transformation,” the desired takeaways often vary. For example:

    • When I’m invited to talk about technology, I focus on what works in improving patient outcomes (data analytics, electronic health records, telehealth, etc.), what doesn’t work (wearables that generate massive streams of data without analysis, huge mainframe computers that search thousands of articles to find an obscure diagnosis, etc.) and what’s promising but still a work in progress (Artificial Intelligence, blockchain technologies, etc.). In these talks, I want the audience to leave with a sense of optimism about technology’s future and healthy skepticism of today’s so-called solutions.

    • When I speak about the challenges and solutions of the healthcare delivery system, I want the audience to understand the consequences of fragmentation, of fee-for-service payments, of spending untold amounts on high-priced machines that do little to improve clinical outcomes while ignoring the power of relatively inexpensive health IT. I want audiences to look for ways to deliver and obtain care that is integrated, capitated, technologically enabled and physician led.

    • When I speak with medical groups about the challenges they face, I want them to feel empowered to make change happen. Burnout and victimhood are rampant among physicians. These issues will only worsen unless doctors are prepared to alter how they practice, accept a different approach to reimbursement and embrace technology.

    • Finally, when I speak about the pharmaceutical world, I want people to understand the life-saving successes that have been achieved through new medications, but also how often the hype exceeds reality for new products, and how frequently drug companies use their monopolistic control to inappropriately drive prices up. More and more, we are seeing dramatic cost increases (sometimes 10x the original price) without significant improvements in efficacy. This, too, must change.

    Regardless of the topic, my presentations incorporate a mix of data, storytelling and a clear call to action. I believe that this approach maximizes the probability that people will remember my presentation and, most importantly, act.

    SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?

    PEARL: Since every organization and conference is different, I make it a point to work closely with the event organizers to understand my audience and their expectations. I want to know what is of greatest interest to the attendees and what’s important to the organizational leaders. I always schedule a telephone meeting several weeks in advance to understand the purpose of the presentation and then customize the content for sponsors and participants alike.

    When appropriate, I have amplified the reach of my presentations beyond the event itself, using my online reach to share information and messages with a broader audience. Past presentations have been mentioned in:

    My Forbes column: I write about the business, politics and culture of healthcare for Since 2013, I’ve written 160 articles have reached more than 4.7 million readers.
    Twitter: 8.2K followers @RobertPearlMD
    LinkedIn: 6.6K followers ( has welcomed 85.2K unique visitors since August 2017
    Newsletter: My newsletter Monthly Musings On American Healthcare reaches 9.6K subscribers each month
    Podcast: I recently launched a new podcast called “Fixing Healthcare,” which debuted in the iTunes top 100 list of science and medicine programs

    I believe these stories – told authentically for the benefit of others in the audience – have the power to move people into action, to change their behaviors and demand change from others.

    SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

    PEARL: I’ve had quite a number of memorable experiences. They almost always arise during Q&A and underscore the deeply emotional experiences of delivering and receiving medical care.

    Many times, the story of my father’s untimely death has raised a passionate discussion around medical error. More than once, I’ve heard directly from audience members about how the medical profession has harmed the people they love. I’ve seen an entire room, filled with hundreds of people, well up with tears. Medicine is, after all, the most personal of professions.

    Similarly, when I talk about the cost of healthcare, I’ve frequently had people stand up and tell stories about their own excessive medical bills and the impact that rising costs have on their families. Finally, when I address the impact of the current system on doctors, physicians from all specialties tell their own stories of burnout, depression and frustration.

    I believe these stories – told authentically for the benefit of others in the audience – have the power to move people into action, to change their behaviors and demand change from others. When I sign copies of Mistreated for people in the audience, I often dedicate it to the “patient in all of us.” The fact that all profits from my book go to Doctors Without Borders reinforces the mission-driven spirit of healthcare delivery.

    SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

    PEARL: Over the past year, I have given more than 100 presentations. I have spoken in large conference halls to thousands of attendees, including insurance executives, pharmaceutical experts, hospital leaders and doctors in solo practice and large physician groups. All have found the information applicable to their slice of the $3.4 trillion healthcare industry. I’ve also met with small groups, including Boards of Directors for multi-billion-dollar companies trying to understand how to transition from fee-for-service to pay for value, and to understand the power technology offers and the hype that’s so pervasive.

    Over the past year, I also have addressed large university student groups, senior citizen organizations and small entrepreneurial start-ups alike. I have found that, regardless of the audience, stories have the power to inspire action. It is my goal to transform American healthcare. And I believe sharing my experience, my commitment to the goal and the solutions are experiences that can benefit any audience.

    Hearing the stories from my book remind people that healthcare must be both high tech and high touch. And it puts a human face on the fears and fulfillment we find in American medicine.

    SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote speaking topics are your favorites and why?

    PEARL: I most enjoy talking about the themes of Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Healthcare—And Why We’re Usually Wrong. The book combines all of the healthcare topics about which I’m passionate, and answers the following questions:

    • Why do Americans spend the most money on healthcare but lag behind most industrialized nations in clinical quality?

    • How does the context of American healthcare distort the perception and alter the behavior of doctors and patients?

    • What are the four pillars that will transform the future of our healthcare system?

    I also find the story of my father’s premature death from medical error connects me with the audience immediately. Almost everyone has a story from their past that inspired them, outraged them, or led them to pursue a career in medicine. Hearing the stories from my book remind people that healthcare must be both high tech and high touch. And it puts a human face on the fears and fulfillment we find in American medicine. My message aspires to help professionals understand what they can do to reignite their passion for healthcare and drive positive change going forward.

    SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?

    PEARL: As the CEO The Permanente Medical Group (Kaiser Permanente), I led a transformative change process for the nation’s largest medical group. Twenty years ago, the organization was in deep financial trouble, needing to borrow a day’s worth of cash just to meet regulatory requirements. In time, and with much hard work, we became the highest-rated program in the nation (per NCQA ratings).

    Along the way, we implemented the country’s largest comprehensive electronic health record, and provided patients with cutting-edge technology, including millions of virtual visits each year. With my leadership team, we raised physician and patient satisfaction dramatically higher than the community around us (per JD Power and Associates surveys) and lowered the chances of a person dying from heart disease and stroke 30% below patients receiving care from the doctors and hospitals around us. After 18 years (three six-year terms as CEO), I felt it was time to help the rest of the nation achieve that same level of success. A year later, I could not be more thrilled to have made the transition.

    I believe that a little emotion, truth and humor is the right medicine to calm an audience’s fears and stimulate the hopes for a better future for our industry.

    SPEAKING.COM: How do you keep your audience engaged and actively listening during your keynotes? Do you use case studies, personal stories and/or in your speeches?

    PEARL: The answer to this question may surprise people, but I never use PowerPoint slides, multimedia presentations or other tricks to grab attention. Instead, I rely on the power of narrative: One person, standing on stage, sharing personal stories, medical anecdotes and powerful research.

    I find my approach is often a breath of fresh air to audiences who prefer to directly engage in emotional and profound dialogue about the challenges facing American healthcare and the urgent need for solutions. I believe that a little emotion, truth and humor is the right medicine to calm an audience’s fears and stimulate the hopes for a better future for our industry. By walking to the front of the stage and talking from my heart, audiences connect and become more willing to embrace their own vulnerability. And through that process, honest conversation follows and the messages resonate for months and years in the future.

    SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients achieve?

    PEARL: Post-conference surveys and media reports from larger events have shown that my keynotes are often rated highest among all speakers and that they generate high-levels of social media engagement. After my conference appearances, I post write-ups on my website that usually receive thousands of visits, along with many thoughtful comments from those who attended. I take it as a positive sign that I am asked to return almost every year to the same conferences at which I spoke the year before. In addition, many programs use my planned presence to attract sign-ups and media participation.

    That said, perhaps the most validating feedback I’ve ever received came from a friend who told me about an experience he had when flying home from San Diego after one of my speeches. He said that the stranger next to him spent the entire flight summarizing what I had said on stage and explaining what she planned to do the next day at work (he never mentioned that he knew me).

    In parallel, I have given smaller presentations, which often include half-day consultations with clinical leaders and Boards of Directors trying to decide on strategic options, often moving from fee-for-service to capitation. In this role, I combine my talk with approaches I have developed for classes I teach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In addition, over the past year, I have helped hospitals and medical groups understand opportunities to increase quality, make care more convenient and reduce costs based on my success in Kaiser Permanente.

    In particular, these presentations and consultations have focused on past successes that included:

    • Using the power of video technology to improve patient outcomes (more than 1 million video visits every year at KP)

    • Reducing hospital utilization (having lowered days per thousand for Medicare patients under 600/year, less than half of the national average)

    • The steps needed to assume financial risk relative to the totality of medical care (expanding from primary care to a multi-specialty medical group).

    • Solutions to shortages in primary care recruitment and physician burnout. Exclusive Interview with Robert Pearl
    How to Disrupt the American Healthcare System with Dr. Robert Pearl
    In this exclusive interview with, healthcare speaker, Dr. Robert Pearl discusses:
  • What most patients and doctors don't realize about healthcare in the U.S.
  • 4 Major and viable shifts that could radically improve healthcare.
  • How patients can be savvier healthcare consumers.Read the Full Interview
  • "In practically every global study and measure of healthcare performance, the United States ranks worst among its wealthier peers: worst in life expectancy, worst in infant mortality, worst in access to care, worst in avoiding preventable deaths. The only category in which the United States ranks highest is the cost of healthcare. "
    - Robert Pearl

    What People are Saying about Seeing Robert Speak

    Rating Entries

    I have seen Dr. Pearl at several major healthcare meetings and find that his talks are very different from the other speakers. First, he has no agenda other than fixing healthcare -- total credibility. Second, he's not just a doctor or CEO. He's also a surgeon, an academic, an author, a journalist, a professor, and more. He sees healthcare from every conceivable angle. Finally, he is so committed to exposing the problems and actually solving them. And his solutions are worth listening to. At the Leapfrog conference I attended, there was a lot of buzz after Dr. Pearl's talk because of his suggestion that all the major business and purchasers in the crowd should threaten to exclude any doctor or insurer who refuses to offer 21st-century technology and approaches. Dr. Pearl is ready to fix healthcare and his ideas for doing so are second to none.


    Have You Seen this Speaker? Leave a Star Rating.

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Books by Robert Pearl:

    Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care—And Why We’re Usually Wrong

    The Biggest Problem In American Health Care Is Us

    Do you know how to tell good health care from bad health care? Guess again. As patients, we wrongly assume the “best” care is dependent mainly on the newest medications, the most complex treatments, and the smartest doctors.

    Americans look for health-care solutions in the wrong places. For example, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved each year if doctors reduced common errors and maximized preventive medicine.

    For Dr. Robert Pearl, these kinds of mistakes are a matter of professional importance, but also personal significance: he lost his own father due in part to poor communication and treatment planning by doctors. Consumers make costly mistakes too. We demand modern information technology from our banks, airlines, and retailers, but we passively accept last century’s technology in our health care.

    Solving the challenges of health care starts with understanding these problems. Mistreated explains why subconscious misperceptions are so common in medicine, and shows how modifying the structure, technology, financing, and leadership of American health care could radically improve quality outcomes. This important book proves we can overcome our fears and faulty assumptions, and provides a roadmap for a better, healthier future.

    Related Speakers


    Need help filling the seats at your next meeting / event?

    Call us / email us / check availability and fee for your favorite speaker.

    Get in touch
    Call us: (760) 656-8770
    Toll free in the US: (877) 717-5327