Dr. Saul Weiner, a plenary speaker at our 2016 SPARK! Leadership Conference, knows that providing good health care requires much more than prescribing the right medications or interventions. After all, what good is it if a doctor prescribes a higher dose of medication for a patient with asthma if the patient can’t afford to pay for it because he just lost his job?
“So much of the way we measure quality in healthcare is based on what’s in the chart,” Dr. Weiner has said. “And if you had looked at the chart of that patient and many, many others, you would say, ‘That was great care.’ But if you were there and listening in and asked the right questions, you’d realize it was terrible care.”
Dr. Weiner encountered repeated examples of this during 10 years of research in which he and his colleague Alan Schwartz sent more than 1000 undercover patients or actors impersonating patients into doctors offices to record their interactions with their physicians. All too often, they found, doctors failed to take a patient’s personal circumstances in account when providing treatment, leading to medical errors. “This problem is real, pervasive, costly, and not addressed by the American health care system or process of medical education,” Weiner and Schwartz assert.
He and Schwartz document their findings in “Listening for what Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care,” published by Oxford University Press in January. They also offer policy prescriptions to minimize medical errors through changes to how doctors are trained, reform in our systems of health care delivery and payment, and by empowering patients to more effectively assert themselves during physician encounters.
We’re thrilled that Dr. Weiner, a Fellow for Life who served in Lambarene, will join us in Boston Nov. 5 to deliver a plenary address based on his book. There is much we can learn from his research and his commitment to providing quality, effective care in an a system that doesn’t always prize a personal touch.
The SPARK! Leadership Conference offers a faculty roster of the most innovative and strategic minds currently working the areas of health care, public policy and social justice.