QUERI – Quality Enhancement Research Initiative

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Quality Improvement Methods

5. Baldrige Award

a. Definition: An award given to outstanding organizations in various industries in terms of performance excellence. Established in the 1980's, it is managed by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. While this is an award program to any type of organization, many healthcare providers have found pursuing it a good way to organize their improvement efforts.

The award includes an explicit application process for the applicant to show how it meets a variety of criteria, such as; leadership, patient engagement, knowledge management, workforce engagement and healthcare outcomes.

b. Literature:

  • Brown, Mark Graham. Baldrige Award Winning Quality--: How to Interpret the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. CRC Press, 2013.
  • Garvin, David A. "How the Baldrige Award Really Works." Harvard Business Review (1991).
  • The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing Baldrige in Healthcare: Evidence-Based Excellence, by Kay Kendall and Glenn Bodinson, 2011.
  • Ohldin, Andrea, et al. "Enhancing VHA's mission to improve veteran health: Synopsis of VHA's Malcolm Baldrige award application." Quality Management in Healthcare 10.4 (2002): 29-37.

c. Example:

A hospital was reasonably successful but the leadership felt they could do more, to become "outstanding". Thus, they sought something that could push them to being better than they had become so far, such as a goal everyone could work towards. After searching a bit, they learned about the Baldrige Award. Not only did it offer a prize and recognition if the award was won but Baldrige provided a rather detailed set of instructions as to how to organize their resources to pursue the goal. As they wished, the process dealt with many aspects of the hospital, not just clinical ones or financial ones. Thus, they adopted the Baldrige process and enlisted the support of all employees. This perhaps presented a risk should they fail. However, the leadership knew that the effort alone offered rewards of improvement. Within a few years they received the award recognition and built many process so that the improvements would remained in place. Now they also publicize their efforts to other hospitals encouraging them to do the same.

d. Steps:

1) A hospital or other healthcare organization knows that it needs to improve and selects the Baldrige Award as an organizing tool

2) Determine the scope of the effort. Will it encompass the entire organization or a particular part of it?

3) Select teams to do the related application work, perhaps specific teams for various categories

4) Complete the process including action plans and application materials

5) Apply, receive feedback and take further actions accordingly