Ever since St. Louis-based SSM Health Care became the first hospital to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award four years ago, the prestigious national tribute has triggered plenty of interest in an industry scrambling for quality improvementnot to mention the national recognition that accompanies it.
Last week, two more well-established healthcare organizations claimed the Baldrige prize: San Diego-based group purchasing organization Premier, and North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. Of the 76 total applicants in five categories, 45 were healthcare organizations vying for an award that ranks as the highest presidential honor for organizational excellence. The healthcare winners, along with Tulsa, Okla.-based Mesa Products, a manufacturer of corrosion-control systems, will be honored during a ceremony early next year in Washington.
Were ecstatic, said Charles Stokes, president of the medical center, the first Mississippi organization to receive the honor. I think we received the award because weve stayed focused on our critical success factors: people, service, quality, growth and (solid) finances.
Premier, a group purchasing giant that includes more than 1,500 hospitals, won its award in the category of service, drawing acclaim in several areas, including its leadership in best practices in ethical conduct, transparency and accountability.
Richard Norling, Premiers president and chief executive officer, called the award the culmination of an incredible, long-term effort by a whole group of people who adopted the key Baldrige criteria about seven years ago. Its exciting ... but weve also created a higher standard for ourselves.
North Mississippi Medical Center, selected in the healthcare category, won praise for providing community services in 2006 to almost 160,000 individuals through free health fairs, screenings, cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes and immunization programs. With 757 beds, it is the largest rural hospital in the country, and ranks as the states largest community-owned hospital, serving 24 rural counties.
The big medical center may have enjoyed something of an advantage as it headed into the Baldrige programs rigorous evaluation process, which includes about 1,000 hours of onsite visits by teams of examiners evaluating applications. John Heer, president and CEO of the medical centers parent, North Mississippi Health Services, was president of five-hospital Baptist Health Care Corp., Pensacola, Fla., when it won a Baldrige in 2003. Heer, who joined the six-hospital system about three years ago, said the medical center had already started to focus on a quality-improvement effort based on Baldrige criteria.
That was actually a major focus when I got here, Heer said. They had already started the Baldrige journey. He described the recognition as icing on the cake after a long effort to improve the mission of the organization.
Total applications from healthcare organizations this year far outstripped any other category, according to the Commerce Departments National Institute of Standards and Technology, which sponsors the award.