‘Listening For What Matters’ Helps Doctors Avoid Contextual Errors In Health Care [REVIEW]

Dr Todd Hnatko checks eyes of a Ugandan patient

U.S. Air Force Major Todd Hnatko, from the 148th Medical Group, Air National Guard, Duluth, MN, checks the eyes of a Ugandan patient during Natural Fire 10 at Palabek Kal Health Clinic in Uganda, Oct 18, 2009. Natural Fire 10 is a humanitarian and disaster relief exercise that will enhance participants’ capabilities to work together in response to complex humanitarian emergencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samara Scott/Released)

When your doctor asks what your trouble is, do you always tell him the whole story? Perhaps some details seem too trivial to mention, but oftentimes there are outlying factors you may not even recognize that contribute to how you’re feeling. Now there’s a new book to help doctors pay closer attention to the context of your life called Listening for What Matters. 

Saul J Weiner and Alan Schwartz's LISTENING FOR WHAT MATTERS

Oxford University Press

Remember the television show, House, M.D.? Frequently House and his team had to look beyond what patients said to find the real root of the problem and a method of treatment that was actually a viable solution to the crisis at hand. This book shows doctors how to take this proactive approach to medicine.

Listening for What Matters is a thoroughly researched book that teaches doctors how to communicate. It also serves to remind both new and seasoned physicians to examine how well rounded their approach toward a patient’s care is.

For example, doctors should ask themselves: Do I take into consideration every aspect of a patient’s life? Am I able to listen attentively to a patient without seeming harried, cold or uninterested? Answering these questions is the first step toward providing better, more educated healthcare.

Some of us may never have had doctors who made house calls, much like the character Doc Baker from the TV classic Little House on the PrairieBut physicians like him used to be common in days gone by. These doctors were familiar with each patient’s background, and people knew their doctors really cared about their well being.

That level of care has always been important. Now Dr. Saul J. Weiner and Prof. Alan Schwartz seek to remind doctors not to let busy schedules and the demands of a practice overshadow their need to get all the facts and offer up smart, patient-centric medical advice.

I encourage every physician from all disciplines to read this important book, Listening for What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care. In fact, maybe we should all ask our doctors if they’ve read it. After all, don’t we deserve this level of quality treatment?


Saul J. Weiner

Saul J. Weiner
(Photo by UIC)

Saul J. Weiner is an internist and pediatrician focused on identifying and improving ways physicians provide individual treatment decisions to patients.

He is currently developing and evaluating educational interventions to train health care professionals to integrate patient context with research evidence when planning patient care.

Dr. Weiner also serves as the vice provost for planning and programs as well as the associate director of the VA Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care.

Alan Schwartz

Alan Schwartz
(Photo by UIC)

Alan Schwartz, PhD is the associate head and director of research at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Medical Education.

He joined the DME in 1997 after receiving his PhD in cognitive psychology and MS in organizational behavior and industrial relations from the University of California, Berkeley.

His research interests include the psychology of decision making in both patients and physicians. In physicians, however, his work focuses on contextual errors in decision making and updating of beliefs when doctors are exposed to new evidence.

by Saul J. Weiner and Alan Schwartz
240 pgs. Oxford University Press. $39.95.

About Heather Fink
Heather Fink is a writer, bibliophile and award-winning librarian who loves to introduce the next generation of readers to the wonderful world of books. She currently resides in Texas.

2 Responses to ‘Listening For What Matters’ Helps Doctors Avoid Contextual Errors In Health Care [REVIEW]

  1. I’m envious. Seems like every time I come back to your website you have a new interesting thing for me to read. How do you stay so motivated? Do you research all of these posts before posting?

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