A panel of experts says there was a “lack of empathy and compassion” in the delivery of care for a doctor who died of COVID-19. Prior to her death in December, Dr. Susan Moore claimed she was mistreated and proper care was delayed at Indiana University Health North Hospital in Carmel because of her race, according to our partners at WISH-TV, though the panel says the care she received “did not contribute to her untimely death.”
IU Health CEO Dennis Murphy says an external review panel comprised of national and local healthcare experts conducted an investigation into Moore’s case, as well as a review of organizational policies and procedures.
The panel also concluded that “cultural competence was not practiced by all providers and several caregivers lacked empathy, compassion and awareness of implicit racial bias in the delivery and communication of Dr. Moore’s care.”
“As a seasoned healthcare leader who is committed to compassionate care and to operating a premier institution focused on providing high-quality care, it is clear to me that Dr. Moore deserved to be listened to and for her concerns to be understood,” Murphy said in a statement Wednesday. “We owe it to our patients to always show up for them, to treat them with dignity and respect, to appreciate their perspectives, and to validate their feelings when they are in our care. We did not live up to these values with Dr. Moore and acknowledge that we have more to do to become a more diverse, inclusive and anti-racist health system.”
The panel provided two sets of recommendations for IU Health. Murphy says the first shows a need for IU Health to conduct an assessment of its care models, patient advocacy system, and employees’ reporting and communication methods. The recommendations include:
- Improve procedures for helping patients and team members voice concerns, escalate issues and access clinicians and other professionals with greater expertise (including social workers, chaplains, etc.) when needed.
- Conduct training for all team members to enhance compassion, encourage empathy and facilitate an optimal patient experience.
- Hire more patient care advocates to improve our system-wide patient care advocacy process.
- Improve patient care coordination and assure communication among all team members and caregivers throughout our hospitals.
- Improve team member reporting about the patients in their care and the use of huddling, incident analyses and debriefing.
- Increase support for team members who experience poor patient outcomes and burnout.
- Mitigate the burden of issues like COVID-19 on patients and team members by enhancing different forms of communication.
Murphy says the second set of recommendations focuses on training and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) education for employees. They include:
- Require more comprehensive DE&I learning and training for all team members, with a focus on mitigation, unconscious bias, microaggressions and anti-racism to foster an inclusive culture.
- Establish a response team trained in mitigation for complex DE&I issues.
- Leverage the diverse experiences and best practices of more seasoned team members to help mitigate incidents involving racial tensions and function better as a team.
- Establish an assessment of DE&I efforts as part of required annual performance evaluations for all team members to support a culture of accountability.
- Standardize onboarding and required training so that both employed and independent physicians receive needed information.
- Engage with community stakeholders to publicly acknowledge the history of racism in healthcare and Indiana, and how IU Health will work toward reconciliation and change.
- Hire a DE&I consultant who can formally assess the organizational culture and climate of IU Health hospitals through an anti-racist lens.
“We appreciate and accept the panel’s recommendations and have started to develop a timeline and accountability structure for this work, which will be grounded in our values and aligned to the DE&I commitments we announced last year,” said Murphy. “We believe the findings and recommendations of this external review will drive forward a plan of action for IU Health to become a more inclusive, equitable and respectful healthcare system for all.”
Murphy says the health system will publicly report progress on achieving its goals on its website.