Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton (N.J.) became the fourth-and smallest-healthcare provider to win the coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
It's been a remarkable 10-year turnaround for the 204-bed hospital, which in the early 1990s was struggling financially and in desperate need of a partner. In 1994, the Hamilton facility became the first hospital to join Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., to form the now four-hospital Robert Wood Johnson Health System.
The alignment with Robert Wood Johnson created opportunities for benchmarking, said Christy Stephenson, RWJ Hamilton's president and chief executive officer. "It really leveraged this organization in this market," she said.
Among other things, RWJ Hamilton was recognized for achieving 90% patient satisfaction in its emergency department in 2004. In 1998, the hospital was one of the first in the country to implement the "15/30" program, which guaranteed all emergency room patients would see a nurse within 15 minutes and a physician within 30 minutes.
Over the past five years, RWJ Hamilton has been New Jersey's fastest-growing hospital, steadily improving its market share, according to the judges. The judges also highlighted its patient-focused model and the hospital's commitment to improving community health. On average, free health screening is provided to more than 900 community residents each month. Charity-care dollars have ballooned from approximately $5 million in 1999 to about $23 million in 2003.
Patient mortality rates have steadily declined to an exemplary level, as have RWJ Hamilton's results for hospital-acquired infections. The hospital now posts a positive 1% operating margin, earning $1.6 million on operating revenue of $160 million, Stephenson said.
"Our bottom line is stronger than most New Jersey hospitals at this point," Stephenson said. "This is why it makes sense for healthcare organizations to adopt Baldrige criteria: It's like a recipe for business performance excellence as well as clinical performance excellence."
The prize is the nation's only presidential award for quality and organizational performance excellence. A healthcare category was first created in 1999, but there was not a winner until 2002 when 21-hosptial SSM Health Care in St. Louis was honored. Last year St. Luke's Hospital of Kansas City, Mo., and Baptist Hospital, Pensacola, Fla., shared the award.
Baldrige recipients are evaluated by an independent board of examiners in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; human resource focus; process management; and results. Congress established the award in 1987 to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. businesses.