University of Pennsylvania Health System
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February 3, 2004

Delta Team has Landed at the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS)
Pioneering patient safety program premiers at Ivy League health system


(Philadelphia, PA)— Nearly 100 eager recruits will begin a year-long training program to become part of the Delta Team -- an elite group of patient safety peer educators -- at the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS). The Delta Team is a patient safety program, the likes of which have never before been seen within a health care system. It has been singularly designed to train those on the frontline in all aspects of patient safety, its policies and procedures, and serve as a safety resource for their peers. The Delta Team program premieres on February 5 when representatives from all areas of the health system -- including nutrition services, pharmacy, social work, home care, public safety, and clinical practice managers -- begin their intensive training. When deployed, the Delta team will help UPHS accelerate the entire organization’s learning with respect to patient safety.

“In order to truly create a culture of change, you must have both the leadership and the frontline employees involved and committed,” said P.J. Brennan, MD, UPHS Chief of Health Care Quality and Patient Safety. “Systems have not always been designed with an eye to safety; they’re set up to be efficient and get work done. Errors, when they do occur, are not the fault of a single, reckless person, but are more the result of a series of poorly designed systems. Ultimately, in order to effectively solve problems about safety, we need to help all individuals evaluate the systems and analyze each system for possible failure.” Brennan concluded.

As with most things in academic medicine, the Delta Team’s name has its roots in Greek. “Delta is the Greek letter for change,” said Maureen Disbot, Director of Clinical Effectiveness and Quality Improvement (CEQI) for UPHS. “With the Delta Team, we are “seeding” the organization with employees uniquely qualified to help us change how patient safety is communicated throughout the health system,” she said.

The yearlong grass-roots program has been produced entirely by UPHS staff. And, its collaborative design -- led by UPHS’s Organizational Design and Competency Systems -- makes it a unique means of partnering patient safety education with a career-enhancing program.

“At UPHS, patient safety is viewed as a shared responsibility that spans across all service areas; it is not the sole responsibility of nurses and physicians,” said Elizabeth Riley-Wasserman, PhD, UPHS Director of Organizational Design and Competency Systems. “This program focuses on our “go-to” people who are interested in taking more of a leadership role in helping UPHS communicate its standards for patient safety throughout all of its locations.” she said.

Employees from all of the health system entities -- including the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital, Presbyterian Medical Center, Phoenixville Hospital, and all locations of the system’s clinical practices -- were encouraged to apply. (Applications could be easily retrieved from the CEQI website.) Candidates were asked to discuss individual strengths and experiences as well as their specific interest in enlisting, as well secure recommendations from their department and a fellow UPHS employee.

The Delta Team kick-off event will focus on “courageous conversations” and features keynote speaker, Kenwyn Smith, PhD, an organizational psychologist. “Courageous conversations,” or the ability to feel comfortable speaking up if when seeing something that’s not right, has been initially identified where Delta team members can positively affect patient safety. “For instance, a distraction in the environment—such as a noisy inpatient unit—could prevent nurses from hearing clinical alarms, but if no one speaks up about it, the problem continues unchecked,” Disbot said. Members of the Delta Team will learn about being proactive and comfortably speaking up, and then pass this skill on to their coworkers. “We want to empower employees to have “courageous” conversations about events affecting patient safety,” she continued. Future programs will focus on UPHS’s unique online safety tracking system, Penn Occurrence Reporting and Tracking System (PORTS) and a prospective system analysis called Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA).

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PENN Medicine is a $2.2 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (created in 1993 as the nation’s first integrated academic health system).

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System consists of four hospitals (including its flagship Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report), a faculty practice plan, a primary-care provider network, three multispecialty satellite facilities, and home health care and hospice.


Release available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/feb04/delta.htm