Virginia health system wins award for new safety rules

November 21, 2005

At Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Va., an aggressive program borrowed from the nuclear energy industry recently won the health system a prestigious patient safety award. Called "Culture of Safety," the program focuses on what its practitioners call behavior-based expectations (BBEs), or "Red Rules," emphasizing communication and accountability.

At Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Va., an aggressive program borrowed from the nuclear energy industry recently won the health system a prestigious patient safety award. Called "Culture of Safety," the program focuses on what its practitioners call behavior-based expectations (BBEs), or "Red Rules," emphasizing communication and accountability.

The 2005 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety & Quality Award was given to Sentara by the National Quality Forum and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. (Meridian Health in New Jersey shared the Eisenberg award for innovation at an organizational level with Sentara for the use of evidence-based guidelines in the system's computer-based physician order entry system.)

Winning the Eisenberg validates the inherent effectiveness of what Tim Jennings, Pharm.D., Sentara's director of pharmacy, calls "our systemwide commitment to staff empowerment." The safety initiative began in 2002 at the system's Norfolk General Hospital. It was designed in part by Performance Improvement International, industrial safety consultants based in San Clemente, Calif. The Norfolk program also won the American Hospital Association's Quest for Quality Award last year. The Culture of Safety program is now being rolled out in all of the system's six hospitals, seven nursing centers, and three assisted living centers.

"The BBEs are among the most important elements of the Culture of Safety," said Jennings. The five BBE Red Rules are: