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Methodist granted $26.2 million to protect Texas patients

Houston, TX - 6/15/2012

Two awards will help patients statewide while saving hospitals, government money

Grants from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services totaling $26.2 million will fund two Methodist projects to reduce blood infections and delirium-caused injuries in Texas hospitals. 

At $14.4 million, the grant to reduce blood infections is the largest given to a Texas institution this year, and the largest Methodist has received to support academic work.

"Both projects are perfect symbols of what Methodist has become -- a leading academic medical center," said Marc Boom, M.D., president and CEO of The Methodist Hospital System. "We are taking the things we learn from our own research and applying them directly to patient care -- to improve the quality of people's lives and to reduce waste in the health care economy."

The three-year grants come from H&HS's Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Health Care Innovation Awards program, which was allotted money by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 to fund projects that can improve Medicare and Medicaid patient welfare while reducing the burden on hospitals and taxpayers.

If the projects are successful in reducing inpatient sepsis and delirium-caused injuries, that knowledge, once implemented in Texas hospitals and clinics, will not only save lives but the Texas health care economy $100 million over three years, CMS predicts.


Sepsis (bacterial infection of the blood) is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., and is an important and worsening problem for American hospitals.

In 2008, researchers at The Methodist Hospital developed protocols, collectively called SERRI (Sepsis Early Recognition and Response Initiative), aimed at preventing inpatient sepsis and reducing mortality. From 2008 to 2011, the Methodist researchers say SERRI saved the lives of 465 people who might otherwise have died from sepsis or sepsis-related complications -- a 33 percent reduction. The costs associated with acute and follow-up care for those patients could have been as much as $13.5 million -- over $6.5 million dollars in inpatient Medicare payments for 2011 alone.

"SERRI works because it engages bedside nurses -- the health professionals who spend the most time with patients," said Stephen L. Jones, M.D., principal investigator of the new CMS-funded project and a research scientist for The Methodist Hospital's Dept. of Surgery. "Patients developing sepsis and septic shock are identified earlier in the disease's development, and appropriate interventions are rapidly initiated, thus changing for the better a highly morbid, often fatal, and extremely expensive clinical trajectory."

The grant funding will allow Jones and his team to place dozens of new, SERRI-trained registered nurses into hospitals and clinics in several Texas cities. During the three-year grant period, Jones' group will work with hospital administrators to determine whether SERRI has a significant impact on patient safety and health care costs.


Delirium is sudden, severe confusion, and can be caused by a wide range of factors -- from mental illness and drug reactions, to a temporary lack of oxygen. Delirium can cause injury, and lengthen an already long hospital stay. A 2005 University of Pittsburgh study estimated delirium incurs an average cost of $49,000 per patient, or $100 billion per year, nationally. Older patients are particularly at risk.

"Studies have shown that the longer older patients stay in hospitals, the more co-morbidities that can occur, the more medications that are prescribed, and the greater the risk for developing delirium," said CMS project principal investigator and Methodist Chief Quality Officer Stuart Dobbs, M.D.

Dobbs will work with Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist colleagues to hire as many as 27 new employees, including certified health care Grand-Aides, to train health care practitioners across the Methodist Hospital System to identify patients who are at high risk of developing delirium, or who may already be experiencing delirium, and to address delirium's symptoms and causes quickly.

The two H&HS grants arrive after a banner year for The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (TMHRI), which administers scientific and educational projects for The Methodist Hospital System. TMHRI administrators say grants to Methodist from external sources now exceed $50 million yearly, and total funding from H&HS, which includes the National Institutes of Health, has risen to about $35 million.

"These grants from CMS are entirely indicative of the quality of academic work at Methodist," said Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., president and CEO of The Methodist Hospital Research Institute. Every year we make major strides forward both in research support and the recruitment of some of the world's most talented clinical scientists."

To speak with Marc Boom, M.D., Stephen L. Jones, M.D., Stuart Dobbs, M.D. or Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., please contact David Bricker, The Methodist Hospital, at 832-667-5811 or dmbricker@tmhs.org.