Arkansas Hospitals Association Health & Science

Up to Excellence: How Committing to Improvement Can be Innovative

The following article is from AHA, a custom publication of Vowell, Inc., which also produces Arkansas Money & Politics.


What comes to mind when you hear the word “innovation”? A photo of Albert Einstein? George Foreman inviting you to contact his friends at InventHelp®? Graduate students in an engineering competition at MIT? It turns out that the Baldrige Excellence Framework has an interesting definition of innovation – “Making meaningful change to improve health care services, processes, or organizational effectiveness and create new value for stakeholders.”

Creating new value for stakeholders produces a competitive advantage. And right now, is there any other sector that needs a competitive advantage more than health care? Increasing regulations, uncertainty in the insurance landscape and – for many – operating in a crowded market, all contribute to the need for differentiation with improved health care services, processes and organizational effectiveness. The question is how to do this in an already challenging environment.

Evidence-based medicine and evidence-based practice emerged in the early nineties as the new approach to health care that underscored the use of proven best practices in the treatment of patients with demonstrably better outcomes.

There is a similar approach to organizational improvement with its own body of evidence.

Since the Baldrige National Quality Award program expanded to include the health care sector in 1999, there has been an explosive growth in the use of the Baldrige Excellence Framework by health care organizations. There have been 22 Baldrige Award recipients in health care since 2002, when SSM Health Care became the first to win this award. 2016 marked another milestone when the first long-term care facility, Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Center – Mountain Valley, achieved this prestigious award.

So, where is the evidence that use of the Baldrige Excellence Framework makes a difference in health care organizations? As it turns out, the evidence appears not only in results achieved by these 22 award recipients, but also through the results of several independent studies.

The first is a study conducted by Ron Schulingkamp and John Latham, who compared the publicly reported measures for health care outcomes and patient experience of Baldrige Award recipients to those from all competing hospitals within a 25- to 50-mile radius of the winners. Statistically significant differences were found in 9 of the 10 measures for patient experience, with the Baldrige Award recipients outperforming their competitors.

Patient engagement leads to patient loyalty, which results in recommendations for the organization to other potential customers.

In another study published by Truven Health, results show a strong correlation exists between Baldrige Award recipients and the 100 Top Hospitals winners. “The identification of a growing overlap between use of known best management practices (Malcolm Baldrige program) and the objective measure of leadership impact on an organization (100 Top Hospitals program) is a testament to the enormous potential of the emerging science of management,” says Jean Chenowith, writing for the study.

When leaders of hospitals and health care systems commit to a performance excellence journey, they are beginning to lay the groundwork for innovation in their organizations. But as the Baldrige definition for innovation states, it also requires that leaders pay attention to creating the right culture.

The glossary of the Baldrige Excellence Framework indicates that “innovation benefits from a supportive environment, a process for identifying strategic opportunities, and a willingness to pursue intelligent risks.” Does this describe your organization’s culture?

If not, what will you need to do to move it in the right direction?

As the leader of an Arkansas hospital, are you satisfied with the results that your organization is achieving, or are you ready to see breakthrough improvements that allow you to leapfrog over your competitors? Now is the perfect time to begin your own performance excellence journey!

Our first book, The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing Baldrige in Healthcare: Evidence-Based Excellence, is written in plain English for people new to the Baldrige Criteria. It describes a practical approach to implementing the essential systems to create a foundation for excellence and then continuing to build organizational capability and maturity. If you’re ready to take this first step, contact me and I’ll happily send you a complimentary copy of our book.


As CEO and Principal of BaldrigeCoach, Kay Kendall coaches organizations on their paths to performance excellence using the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria as a framework. In each edition of Arkansas Hospitals, Kay offers readers quality improvement tips from her coaching playbook. Contact Kay at 972.489.3611 or Kay@Baldrige-Coach.com.

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