Transforming Medical Care Through Innovation and Compassion

In late 2014, the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital will open its doors, transforming medical care in North Texas and serving as a model for academic medical centers across the country.

“Our vision is to provide the very best care possible to all those who come to us for help, and to do so while training the next generation of caregivers and conducting research that addresses some of the most important challenges in medical science,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

To that end, every aspect of the new hospital has been carefully considered. “We’re bringing together innovative hospital design, state-of-the-art technology, and industry best practices to create an environment that seamlessly integrates patient care with leading-edge research and medical education. Everything we’ve done, and every decision we’ve made, has been to better serve our patients,” Dr. Podolsky said.

To achieve these goals, the hospital planning team gathered input from patients, caregivers, faculty, and researchers. The team visited respected hospitals around the country to identify best practices. And work groups focused on specific aspects of hospital operations, developing innovative approaches to enhance patient care.

The architects for the facility also participated in the planning process, attending hundreds of hours of work group meetings to listen to the discussions of the doctors, nurses, and staff who will be working in the new hospital. As a result, the architects were able to incorporate the best insights and ideas into the hospital’s design.  

“By listening to our stakeholders and evaluating best practices in the industry, we created a vision of what a patient-centered academic medical facility should offer,” said Dr. John Warner, CEO of UT Southwestern University Hospitals. The result will be a 12-story, 460-room hospital that moves UT Southwestern toward its goal of being among the nation’s top academic medical centers.

“Patients seek out UT Southwestern because of the strength of our science,” said Dr. Bruce Meyer, Executive Vice President for Health System Affairs. “We are well-known for scientific discoveries that translate to the bedside. We also continuously track the latest clinical research and evaluate therapies that provide the best patient outcomes. We care about the person who is ill, not just his or her disease.”

Design Promotes Care, Quality, and Collaboration

One unique feature of the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital is the W-shaped design, which is both distinctive and functional. This W design – which is a response to input from UT Southwestern nurses – will improve patient care and make it easier for patients, staff, and visitors to navigate the facility.

For staff, the W shape minimizes the distances that must be covered to perform routine duties. It will enable nurses to maintain closer interaction with patients and have better sight lines into each patient’s room.

The design also supports operational quality, protecting patients from infections and exposure, since most materials will be moved directly from supply elevators to storage areas – bypassing patient hallways and creating a cleaner, quieter environment. Dedicated trash and linen chutes also will contribute to a healthier environment by removing items quickly from the building.

Promoting collaboration is another priority, and related specialties will be co-located on certain floors. This will allow cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, for example, to easily consult on cases. There also will be designated areas for doctors and students to confer, and for clinical research to take place.

The Power of Technology

Along with the innovative design, the new hospital incorporates the most advanced technology. Secure mobile devices, for example, will enable physicians and nurses to maintain, track, and share up-to-date electronic medical records. RFIDs (radio-frequency identification devices) and bar coding of equipment and medications will promote proper tracking and administration – reducing the potential for errors.

In patient rooms, monitors will enable caregivers and patients to review charts and images (such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs) at the bedside, while videoconferencing capability – one of the most innovative features of the hospital – will allow patients to stay connected with family and friends. Surgeons also will have similar videoconferencing capabilities in the operating rooms, enabling real-time discussions with pathologists and other colleagues during surgery.

Looking to the future, the hospital is designed for maximum flexibility. This will enable new equipment and technology to be quickly integrated, with minimal downtime for renovations.

Putting Patients and Families First

To support healing and comfort, the hospital will provide a variety of amenities for patients and their loved ones.

The physical environment is an important consideration. Patient rooms will be spacious and private, with large windows that bring in natural light. Patients will have more control over their space, with controls for calling for assistance, as well as for Wi-Fi, TV, lighting, drapes, and temperature, easily accessible from their bed. Restaurant-quality food will be available around the clock, with the patient’s dietary restrictions already factored into the menu options. And outdoors, beautiful gardens will serve as a sanctuary, while still allowing patients to be carefully monitored.

Recognizing the important role of family and friends in a patient’s recovery, the hospital is designed to accommodate them as well. Patient rooms will have ergonomically designed sleeper sofas, allowing family members to stay overnight. Private cellphone rooms will be available in waiting areas, offering a quiet place to make calls without disturbing others. Dining areas will provide nutritious meals and snacks 24 hours a day, along with alcoves for private conversation. And a Patient Information Center with kiosks will enable patients, friends, and family to research and better understand diseases, diagnoses, treatment options, and clinical trials.

Even long-standing hospital procedures have been re-evaluated to provide a better patient experience. For example, rather than separating newborns from their parents, whenever possible, newborns will stay with their parents in labor and delivery suites, as well as in individual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit rooms. This allows more time for bonding, which research shows can positively influence a baby’s weight gain and growth rate, reduce time in the hospital and future complications, improve breastfeeding capability, and (especially important for premature infants) promote better body temperature regulation. 

Building the Future

Building a hospital of this quality and magnitude is a massive undertaking. Bringing the new hospital from vision to reality is possible because of the generous support of friends in the community and of UT Southwestern physicians, through their commitment of revenues from the Faculty Practice Plan.

The hospital is named in honor of former Texas Gov. William P. Clements Jr., who in 2009 made a landmark $100 million contribution to the Southwestern Medical Foundation, the largest single gift in the foundation’s history. The funds were unrestricted, meaning they could be used for any purpose. But there was one stipulation – the gift must be used for something that would be “transformational” for UT Southwestern. The new hospital will indeed have the transformative impact Gov. Clements envisioned.

“This new hospital is critical to North Texas,” said William T. Solomon, who serves as Chairman of Southwestern Medical Foundation and of the Building the Future of Medicine capital campaign, which has been working to raise $200 million in private funds. “The hospital will significantly enhance both the availability of care and the quality of life in our community. It will provide the absolute best in patient care, innovative facilities, and leading-edge science … and that benefits everyone we serve.”


Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Warner holds the Jim and Norma Smith Distinguished Chair for Interventional Cardiology, and the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Chair in Cardiovascular Research.