Two not-for-profit hospitals last week became the latest healthcare providers to win the nation's highest honor for quality achievement, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, administered by the U.S. Commerce Department.
St. Luke's Hospital of Kansas City, Mo., and Baptist Hospital, Pensacola, Fla., became the second and third providers to receive the prestigious honor since the healthcare category was added in 1999. Last year, SSM Health Care, a 21-hospital system in St. Louis, was the first healthcare organization to win in the category.
"This is great for the whole healthcare environment," said G. Richard Hastings, chief executive officer of 467-bed St. Luke's. "Our winning this year shows others in the healthcare industry that they can be as successful and have every ability to perform at the same level. This raises the bar."
St. Luke's and Baptist, which includes a ambulatory-care center, a 492-bed hospital and a 60-bed medical surgical hospital, were among 19 healthcare organizations that applied under this year's healthcare category.
John Heer, president of Baptist Hospital, part of five-hospital Baptist Health Care, Pensacola, said Baptist has been looking at the criteria for a number of years.
"We've been on this journey since 1996," he said. "Once we started digging into the Baldrige criteria, we discovered it was largely already where we were headed as an organization. But it helped us refine the direction of what we were doing and gave us a cause to rally around."
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. A winner isn't selected for every category each year.
Applicants submit detailed documents outlining their improvements, processes and results in seven areas, including customers and markets, human resources, leadership and strategic planning. Applicants also must supply information on the ethical practices and governance of their organization, including evidence of ethical behavior, fiscal accountability, legal compliance and organizational citizenship.
Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said in a news release that this year's winners "represent America's best and are setting a high standard for corporate and social responsibility."
Heer received a phone call from Evans last week and said what pleased him most about the three healthcare winners was their focus on a "servant leadership approach."
"All three healthcare organizations embody this particular approach as opposed to an ego leader approach," Heer said. "They are all focused on the customers, patients and especially their employees in terms of creating an environment in which the employees can really function and shine."