Hospital's Missed Ebola Diagnosis Calls for 'Organizational Mindfulness'

UH Hobby Center for Public Policy's New ‘White Paper Series’ Promotes Policy-Relevant Research

In 2014, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas treated and released a man who, three days later, became the first Ebola victim diagnosed in the U.S. Two nurses also contracted the disease. Hospital officials later said training and education programs had not fully deployed.

A new effort from the University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy (HCPP)—The White Paper Series—examines the events surrounding that misdiagnosis.  Findings were presented in “The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Ebola Crisis: A Perfect Storm of Human Errors, System Failures and Lack of Mindfulness.”

“The White Paper Series is meant to provide the community with policy-relevant work that can be expanded to future research,” said Jim Granato, professor and HCPP director. “The Hobby Center is a resource to the community and that includes policy makers. Research is dynamic, and we aspire to produce research that doesn’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust.” 


The series’ first offering was written by Elizabeth Anderson-Fletcher, associate professor in the Department of Decision and Information Sciences at the C.T. Bauer College of Business; Dusya Vera, associate professor in the Department of Management at the C.T. Bauer College of Business, and JeAnna Abbott, Spec’s Charitable Foundation Professor in Social Responsibility at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

The paper examines what should have happened in the Dallas crisis, and presents strategies to improve the healthcare supply chain—from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, to hospitals and first responders—by employing “organizational mindfulness.” Organizational mindfulness describes an organization’s ability to negotiate and maneuver through crises and threats and quickly lead teams to a point to stop or contain the threats.

 “We offer our normative recommendations of the Ebola crisis as a proposal, and a detailed scenario, of how the health care sector could or should respond to health care emergencies–including ER management, and hospital service quality and productivity–by building and maintaining a state of mindfulness,” said Fletcher. “We hope to open a debate about the role of organizational mindfulness in detecting, preventing and managing health care supply chain crises such as which occurred in Dallas.”

The HCPP White Paper Series will bring together research teams from a variety of disciplines and universities to focus on public policy and academic issues.

“This inaugural white paper, and those that follow, hold the promise of providing a solid research foundation for effective policy,” Granato said.