How very sad it is that when Modern Healthcare finally devotes a significant amount of space to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the coverage is negative (Baldrige, interrupted, Jan. 1, p. 6).
Sadly, the article misses the mark from the get-go, when reporter Joseph Mantone writes that after their initial celebration, Baldrige winners ponder ways to parlay the award and the recognition that comes with it into more business, increased revenue and higher profits.
As the chief executive officer of an organization that has four times undergone the rigorous process of applying for Baldrige (from 1999-2002), I can say without hesitation that this award process is about improving, not about money. For SSM Health Care, Baldrige has always been about providing the best care possible to our patients. In other words, its not about the prize; its about improvement.
Although I spent 30 minutes talking to Mantone for this article, he chose not to include my comments, possibly because they were positive.
What I told him was that Baldrige is not about perfection. Rather, the Baldrige process helps organizations achieve new levels of excellence by comparing their own performance to the characteristics of the highest-performing organizations.
Organizations that apply for the Baldrige open themselves up to the scrutiny of teams of peoplehighly trained volunteer Baldrige examiners from companies large and small across the U.S.for the invaluable feedback that the process provides. At SSM Health Care, we encourage employees to become Baldrige examiners because of the remarkable opportunity to learn about other high-performing organizations. I am proud of the fact that more than 30 SSM Health Care employees are either Baldrige or state quality award examiners.
Since SSM Health Care became the first in healthcare to receive the Baldrige in 2002, a number of us from SSM have traveled across the nation and around the world talking about how Baldrige helped us improvesometimes for a small voluntary honorarium, but often only for travel expenses. Thats because of our commitment to share what weve learned openly with other organizations that are interested in providing the highest quality.
I encouraged Mantone to look into the value of the Baldrige to improve healthcare, but he chose to focus on the negativeon allegations about two 2006 recipients. Are they perfect? No. Is SSM perfect? Of course not. No organization is.
Organizations that open themselves to Baldrige, however, are all about improving. To suggest anything less is an insult to our integrity.
Sister Mary Jean Ryan
President and CEO
SSM Health Care
Editors note: Ryan is a member of the board of Premier.