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The New Clements Hospital: High-Tech Equipment And A High-Speed Laundry Chute

UT Southwestern Medical Center

You might say the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital has an identity problem.

Inside, you could almost forget you’re in a hospital. The hallways look like art galleries, the bright patient rooms like spas, and the ER exam rooms like private law offices.

UT Southwestern’s new $800 million Clements Hospital is designed for patient, and doctor, satisfaction. From the high-tech medical equipment and the 24/7 food store to the “W” shape of the 12-floor building.

Dr. John Warner, CEO of UT Southwestern University Hospitals, explains the building design started out as a rectangle, and then they got creative.

Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News
John Warner, CEO of UT Southwestern University Hospitals, shows off the video capabilities in each patient room at Clements University Hospital.

“We twisted and turned it and tried to figure out ways that you could enhance privacy and adjacencies of those people working together,” Warner says.

Nurses often walk more than three miles a day in a traditional hospital. With the W shape, caregivers enter in the center of units, so the furthest they have to walk is eight patient beds.

There’s an emphasis on connectivity throughout the building. Doctors can video conference specialists during surgeries, and patients can get in touch with doctors in other states or family and friends.

The technology is available in all 460 private patient rooms.

Warner says adding technology to the old building – the St. Paul University Hospital – was not a realistic option. Staff needed more space, more beds, and more surgical suites.

“We’ve been growing at a rate of 5 to 7 percent per year across our whole practice,” Warner says. “Which exceeds that of the metroplex.”

Credit UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern Medical Center
The high-velocity linen and trash chutes at UT Southwestern’s Clements Hospital.

A High Tech Laundry Chute

Yes, Clements Hospital has the latest in medical diagnostic equipment, but it also has a tricked out laundry chute.

“It’s pretty cool,” says John Warner, CEO of UT Southwestern University Hospitals. “Its 60 miles per hour it takes trash and linen out of the hospital right away.”

The tube system helps with a more efficient and sanitary removal of trash and linens — without transporting the used material through patient hallways.

“Because the longer things that are dirty stay in the hospital the higher the risk of infection,” Warner says.

North Texas Health Care Construction

Hospitals across North Texas are seeing the need for increased construction, and they’re competing to attract patients.

“Take UT Southwestern,” says UNT Health Science Center‘s Dean Richard Kurz, “They want to be one of the major healthcare institutions in the United States and certainly in Texas, and in order to do that they need to have high end facilities.”

Kurz says North Texas hospitals are spending billions on construction. Some of it is necessary, some, isn’t.

“There’s a tendency, certainly for patients and sometimes for physicians,” he says, “to think that shiny and new is better.”

Credit UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern Medical Center
A surgical suite at the new Clements Hospital.

In the case of UT Southwestern, John Warner is betting the shiny, new, and more connected hospital will result in better care. And he’s not alone – since Clements opened, 80 percent of rooms have been full.

“We’ve certainly seen the ‘if you build it they will come’ phenomenon, which has been very satisfying and also is a source of pride for us,” Warner says.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.