Your coverage of the Malcolm Baldrige award recipients seems to have focused more on the challenges they face than how they earned the award (Baldrige, interrupted, Jan. 1, p. 6). But those of us who care about the future of healthcare in our nation would benefit from learning how these honorees are applying the Baldrige process to improve quality and reduce costs, critical lessons for healthcare leaders today.
Ive had the good fortune to observe the efforts of one award recipientPremierfirsthand. My organization is one of the 200 not-for-profit hospitals and healthcare systems that own and govern the Premier alliance. I serve as chairman of Premiers board.
Premiers use of the Baldrige criteria is also entirely consistent with a wider movement within healthcare. Hospitals know we must embrace the proven improvement methods used by business if we are to meet the cost and quality challenges we face.
The level of fact-driven rigor in the Baldrige process is extraordinary. Of the companies that applied for the award this year, only 15 received site visits. A site visit involves hosting a team of independent examiners who spend more than 1,000 combined hours testing applicants claims against the reality of their operations in seven key areas representing the whole of a business.
As SSM Health Care President and Chief Executive Officer Sister Mary Jean Ryan (whose system won the award in 2002) has said: When you write the 50-page application, youll learn more about your organization than you ever thought possible. You begin to see what youre doing well, what youre not doing well, and what youre not doing that you thought you were doing. The application process helps you understand your core systems, processes and critical linkages across seven categories of the Baldrige criteria. You also perceive quickly where you lack these systems, process and linkages.
Premier has applied Baldrige thinking to a Medicare pay-for-performance project that ties incentive payments for more than 250 hospitals to top performance on a set of quality measures proven to improve patient outcomes. By identifying best practices and setting metrics based on them, then measuring and rewarding performance accordingly, the project has improved the reliability of care, saving hundreds of lives while reducing complications and hospital costs.
Using the Baldrige approach, Premier also changed the way it measures performance. This led to the creation of a process to measure savings validated by its member hospitals. Since the start of fiscal 2005, Premiers members have reported $2.3 billion in validated savings achieved through participation in Premier.
In the same way that the Baldrige process drove improvement at Premier, it will inevitably lead to positive changes at the growing number of hospitals embracing the program.
President and chief executive officer
Texas Health Resources
Premier board of directors