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U.S. HHS Secretary Visits Sentara Norfolk General Hospital 

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Kathleen Sebelius lauds system’s Culture of Safety, touts new program

Norfolk, VA (Tuesday, June 7, 2011) – U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius visited Sentara Norfolk General Hospital today to promote her department’s new safety program Partnership for Patients. 

The program is engaging hospitals, providers, health plans, employers and patients across the country to reduce deaths and complications from medical errors and save Medicare and Medicaid up to $50 billion over ten years.


U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (left) learns how Sentara eICU works in Operations Center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Also on the tour from left are Gene Burke, M.D., Rep. Bobby Scott, Gary Yates, M.D. and Kathy McCoy, RN.

“You’ve been doing some pretty spectacular work for ten years,” Sebelius told Sentara senior executives at a roundtable discussion. “Systems I see that have mastered these initiatives all have strong leadership,” she continued, “and I want to congratulate you.”

“Back in 2002, Sentara Healthcare made a decision to look outside the healthcare arena for new ideas and approaches to improve patient safety,” says Gary Yates, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Sentara Healthcare. “We found them in nuclear power and naval aviation, where stakes are high and mistakes can be catastrophic,” Yates continues. “We used the principles and processes we learned from these high reliability organizations to create a Culture of Safety throughout our system and our patients are safer as a result.”

Sebelius views Sentara innovations, hears about results
During her 90-minute visit, Sebelius toured the Sentara eICU operations center, the first remote monitoring program in the country for ICU beds across multiple hospitals. Launched by Sentara in 2000, eICU and a host of innovative ICU protocols have contributed to an average 27% reduction in patient mortality and an average 17% reduction in ICU length of stay in the Sentara system.

Staffed by critical care physicians and nurses monitoring real-time patient telemetry, eICU offers extra eyes and ears for ICU staffs and the opportunity for live consultation via remote cameras and microphones in each ICU room.


Roundtable discussion on Partnership for
Patients at Sentara Heart Hospital

During her visit, Secretary Sebelius remotely viewed the ICU at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, which has now surpassed seven years without a case of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Their practice ‘bundle’ has been ‘blueprinted’ by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and shared internationally as a model for other hospital systems to emulate. Sentara hospitals are also making strides in the prevention of bloodstream infections caused by central lines and other factors, using multidisciplinary daily rounding that assesses the need for continued use of ventilators and central lines.

Sentara eCare is engaging patients as partners in their care
In the roundtable discussion, Secretary Sebelius heard how the Sentara eCare® Health Network, an industry-leading electronic medical record, is preventing medication errors, shortening delivery times for inpatient medications and creating a repository of data that is driving patient safety improvements. A case in point was the H1N1 flu event, in which eCare helped Sentara identify patterns of symptoms at different sites of care and deploy resources accordingly. 


Secretary Sebelius speaks with reporters after roundtable with Gary Yates, M.D. (left) and Rep. Bobby Scott.     

In addition, more than 59,000 patients of Sentara Medical Group are now registered users of Sentara MyChart®, a secure consumer portal on eCare that is helping patients become informed partners in their care through online interactions with physician offices and access to their medical records and recent test results.

“Sentara has really stepped up,” Sebelius concluded. “Success often doesn’t show up until years later and Sentara is one of the great examples of innovative practices that have been going on for a decade.”

About Sentara Healthcare
Sentara Healthcare, a leading integrated healthcare delivery system in Virginia and North Carolina, is comprised of 10 acute care hospitals, including 7 in Hampton Roads, 1 in northern Virginia and 2 in the Valley-Central region of Virginia, advanced imaging centers, nursing and assisted living centers, outpatient campuses, two home health and hospice agencies, a medical staff with 3,680 providers and three medical groups with 618 providers.

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital was the incubator for the Sentara Culture of Safety Initiative. In 2004, the hospital was awarded the ‘Quest for Quality’ prize from the American Hospital Association for its innovative approach to patient safety. In 2005, when the Culture of Safety had been rolled out across all Sentara hospitals and other sites of care, the system won the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality award from the Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum.

Today, Sentara operates a consultancy, Healthcare Performance Improvement (HPI) which is helping dozens of client systems across the country accelerate their patient safety improvements.

In 2010, for the second year in a row, Sentara Healthcare was named the #1 most integrated healthcare system in the nation by SDI, a national healthcare informatics firm, as published in Modern Healthcare magazine. Sentara is the only healthcare system to be among the Top 10 systems for all 14 years the survey has been conducted.

In 2010, Sentara CEO David L. Bernd received the CEO IT Achievement award from Modern Healthcare for championing the successful deployment of the Sentara eCare® Health Network.

Related Links:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
Sentara Norfolk General Hospital 

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