SSM Health Care, St. Louis, Mo., has become the first healthcare provider to win the nation's highest honor for quality achievement, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award administered by the U.S. Commerce Department.
The 21-hospital Roman Catholic system is among 42 organizations that have applied under the healthcare category since it was added to the program in 1999.
Created by Congress in 1987 to honor former Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, the prize is awarded annually to up to three organizations in each of the categories of manufacturing, service, small business, and starting in 1999, education and healthcare. Not every category has a winner in all years.
Also receiving an award this year were Motorola's commercial, government and industrial solutions sector, Schaumburg, Ill., in the manufacturing category and Branch Smith's printing division, Fort Worth, Texas, in the small-business category.
Previous winners have included Boeing Co., Federal Express Corp., and Xerox Business Services.
SSM's "work with patient feedback and physician communications make it an outstanding example of what can be done when fresh thinking and modern science are brought to the delivery of healthcare in America," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a written statement. "With its groundbreaking automated system that makes clinical information available to any of its physicians wherever they may be, SSM Health Care has shown that it is truly dedicated to bringing the technological revolution to healthcare."
SSM has been using the Baldrige model for evaluating its performance for more than seven years, and the model has been "instrumental in helping us achieve our mission," system President and CEO Sister Mary Jean Ryan said. The model consists of seven criteria: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management, and business results.
While the award is a milestone, it is only one component of an ongoing quality improvement effort, system officials said.
"SSM Health Care is a role model of world-class excellence and has achieved extraordinary results," Commerce Secretary Don Evans said in announcing the award. "The men and women of this organization represent the highest ethical standards in public responsibility and corporate citizenship."
SSM's achievements are detailed in its Baldrige Award recipient profile on the Web site of the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. Additional information about the Baldrige Award is also available at www.quality.nist.gov.