UT System awards clinical excellence

By Lin Lofley

Two clinical teams from UT Southwestern Medical Center were recognized recently for significant results in improving health care outcomes.

UT System logo

The awards were announced at the UT System’s annual Clinical Safety and Effectiveness (CS&E) Conference in San Antonio, called Building the Bridge.

The team of Dr. Chanhaeng Rhee, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, and Eleanor Phelps, Director of Nursing Quality Improvement, earned first-place honors in the overall competition for a project to reduce the overall incidence of catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) by 50 percent each year from the 2012 baseline. 

To accomplish this project, titled “A Systems Approach to CAUTI Elimination,” a multidisciplinary team consisting of front-line managers, physician subject-matter experts, students, managers, and other ad hoc members used the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) improvement methodology to provide a working framework.

In the first year of implementation, a 45-percent reduction in CAUTI incidence – a decrease from 145 incidents to 74 – was realized with an estimated cost avoidance of more than $60,000.

In addition, the team worked with colleagues at UT Dallas to develop standard video training and improve collaboration between UT System institutions.

Also recognized at the CS&E conference in the newly created sustainability category was a team led by Dr. Phillip Greilich, Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Management, and registered nurse Margaret Dupre, Quality Improvement/Safety Coordinator. Their first-place project, called “Sustaining the Reduction of Deep Sternal Wound Infection (DSWI),” was aimed at maintaining the rate of DSWI for all patients having a median sternotomy incision at less than 1 percent in 2013 and 2014.

Final figures are not yet available, but estimates show that the interventions formulated by the project could save more than $500,000 in 2013. The team collaborated with UT Arlington to leverage that institution’s expertise in industrial and systems engineering.

Details for both projects can be found on the Clinical Safety and Effectiveness Conference website at www.utsystem.edu.

The CS&E course was first offered in 2010 at UT Southwestern, one of six UT System health care institutions providing the program. 

“This educational program has become one of the cornerstones of our quality and safety program at UT Southwestern,” said Dr. W. Gary Reed, Chief Quality Officer of the UT Southwestern Health System Administration and Professor of Internal Medicine and Surgery.

Eight days of instruction, conducted over a five-month period, provides participants the opportunity to learn methods and tools to be able to conduct data-driven clinical practice and process improvement projects both within their units and cross-functionally.

The CS&E course goals are:

  • To appreciate the complexity of health care systems and learn how to improve the processes that make up these systems;
  • To identify, measure, and minimize needless variation;
  • To understand the need for an interdisciplinary and multiprofessional approach to improvement and patient care; and
  • To improve outcomes of care and enhance organizational learning through shared knowledge of best practices based on improvements.

The first 2014 session of the CS&E course at UT Southwestern began Jan. 10 with more than 50 registered participants. A second session, which still has space available, is scheduled to begin March 28. 

Additional information is available at the Office of Quality Improvement and Safety website at www.utsouthwestern.net or by contacting Mary Baldwin.


Dr. Greilich holds the S.T. "Buddy" Harris Distinguished Chair in Cardiac Anesthesiology.

Dr. Reed holds the S.T. Harris Family Distinguished Chair in Internal Medicine; the Sinor/Pritchard Professorship in Medical Education, Honoring Donald W. Seldin, M.D.; and the Eva A. Rosenthal Professorship in Internal Medicine.