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In 50 Words
Or Less
• The Baldrige criteria
provide a structure for Use Baldrige criteria
to meet your goals
improving quality and
financial performance in
healthcare institutions.
• The criteria help organi-
zations meet the six In-
stitute of Medicine aims
of safety, effectiveness,
and patient needs
patient-centered and
equitable care, timeli-
ness and efficiency.
• Data from Baldrige
award recipients dem-
onstrate improvements
and sustained results.

by William Denney, today’s healthcare leaders
Cynthia St. John and face the need to effectively manage both the clinical
Liz Youngblood and business sides of their operations. This includes
demonstrating cost reductions, overall organizational
improvement and long-term sustainability.
Added to these responsibilities are the societal ex-
pectations that these leaders make radical changes to
the healthcare infrastructure while it still consistently
meet the needs of patients and that these leaders do
so in a field that is quite complex. The bottom line is
that hospitals have no choice but to move from basic
compliance to organizational excellence.

May 2009 • QP 39
Implementing the Baldrige Healthcare Criteria for Quality and the IOM aims
Performance Excellence1 within a healthcare organi- Initial efforts to achieve improvement have frequently
zation can drive high-quality outcomes and improve been associated with the Institute of Medicine (IOM)
financial performance. The Baldrige criteria provide a aims. In its landmark report Crossing the Quality
structure to help align and focus all areas of an organi- Chasm, IOM acknowledged the existence of a perva-
zation with key stakeholder needs and expectations. In sive quality gap and called for the urgent redesign of
short, the criteria can transform healthcare. the U.S. healthcare system.2
In the midst of striving for organizational excellence, The report set forth the following six aims for fo-
healthcare institutions are faced with a variety of chal- cused improvement:
lenges. For example, no one can deny that healthcare • Safety—avoiding injuries to patients from the care
is a highly regulated industry. Staying up to date with intended to help them.
changing requirements is costly in time and resources • Effectiveness—providing services based on sci-
that don’t generate additional revenue. entific knowledge to all who could benefit while re-
An organization that does not maintain compliance, fraining from providing services to those unlikely to
however, will lose money in the form of penalties, de- benefit.
creases in payments, required reimbursement of funds • Patient-centered care—providing care that is re-
received and even failure to qualify to serve certain spectful of and responsive to individual patient pref-
payer categories. erences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient
Another challenge faced by full-service, acute care values guide all clinical decisions.
hospitals is providing healthcare to all, regardless of • Timeliness—reducing wait times and sometimes
ability to pay. Emergency and subsequent healthcare harmful delays for those who receive and those who
services are provided regardless of whether a patient give care.
can pay for the services. • Efficiency—avoiding waste, including unused
Many healthcare consumers cannot afford insur- equipment and supplies, ignored ideas and unneces-
ance. Others have insurance but cannot pay the in- sary expenditures of energy.
creasing co-pay amounts and other consumer-funded • Equitable care—providing care that does not vary
portions of healthcare plans. This added financial bur- in quality because of personal characteristics such
den on hospitals, along with the increasing regulatory as gender, ethnicity, geographic location and socio-
compliance requirements, is cause for concern. Hospi- economic status.
tals that are unable to meet these challenges end up Intended to result in care that is safer, more reliable,
closing their doors because they can’t financially sus- more responsive, more integrated and more available,
tain their operations. these aims became the focus of many healthcare insti-
Additionally, consumers (patients) are much more tutions’ quality efforts.
involved in making healthcare decisions, and expecta- Since the report’s release, some gains have been
tions for transparency have become the norm. Patient achieved. These topics continue to cause unrest within
consumers decide what healthcare services they want the healthcare industry, however—opportunities for
to receive and where they want to receive them. These improvement persist. In a time when great leaps for-
decisions are based on accessible information related ward are needed, progress is too often measured in
to services, quality and other outcomes. small, incremental improvements. Leaders find them-
Furthermore, high-quality, cost-effective care with selves supporting and financing many seemingly good,
positive outcomes is expected. For consumers, this is a but random, acts of improvement. Despite best inten-
given; therefore, patient satisfaction has become a key tions, costs continue to rise, patients remain dissatis-
driver in determining where patients will go to receive fied, and process failures are widespread.
services. What is needed is a systematic way to align hos-
All these factors create a challenging environment pital improvement activities with strategic goals and
for healthcare institutions. Addressing these challeng- to track focused measures that result in real change.
es and moving beyond them to create organizational Since its availability in 1999, the Baldrige healthcare
excellence are critical to success and sustainability. criteria have been used by many hospitals to accom-

40 QP •

plish this alignment and tracking. The criteria repre-

sent a systems approach to improvement that is com-
Patient safety culture
posed of six process categories and a seventh category example / figure 1
for associated results:

view issue as a problem

Percentage of staff that
1. Leadership. 30
2. Strategic planning. 25 Good
3. Focus on patients, other customers and markets. 15
4. Measurement, analysis and knowledge management. 10
5. Workforce focus. 0
6. Process management. Specific Rewarded Provides
7. Results. process to for taking teamwork
review quick action training to
The criteria have also been referred to as a leader- to identify
performance improve
ship system and a sustainability model. But what they against a serious patient care
really represent is an integrated approach to improving defined mistake performance
a diverse and complicated organization and achieving training goals and safety
sustainable results. North Mississippi Medical Center
Select group top 10%
Baldrige and the IOM aims
While the criteria address key processes in an effective
management system and are increasingly recognized Accreditation results (such as Joint Commission re-
as a framework to create and sustain quality outcomes, quirements) are also addressed in the leadership out-
the greatest emphasis is placed on the outcomes comes criteria.
achieved by these processes. Table 1 (p. 42) summariz- Given the relation between the Baldrige results cri-
es the Baldrige results criteria relative to the IOM aims. teria and the IOM safety aim, it is not surprising that
Systematic application of the criteria often corre- Baldrige award recipients often demonstrate stronger
sponds with significant gains in IOM aim achievement. patient safety outcomes compared with their peers.
Following are examples of results from Baldrige recip- In Figure 1 from Baldrige award recipient North
ients that impact IOM aims: Mississippi Medical Center, as patient safety improve-
Safety: The provision of safe care is dependent on ment becomes part of an organization’s processes and
a variety of factors. It therefore follows that safety also culture, staff recognizes that actions to improve safety
touches many of the Baldrige results items. Most di- are visible and well implemented.
rectly, the healthcare outcomes criteria (7.1) ask for Figure 2 from St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City
levels, trends and comparative results relative to pa- shows that mortality rates were lower, which impacts
tient safety. other important measurements compared with nation-
Also relevant, however, are workforce-focused al averages.
outcomes due to the human factors often associated
with medical errors. Workforce capability and capac-
ity, including staffing levels and appropriate skills, are Lower mortality
addressed by the workforce-focused outcomes criteria rates / figure 2
SLH National average
In addition, safe care is aligned with the Baldrige
process effectiveness outcomes (7.5) and leadership Medical mortality 13.1% 15.3%

outcomes (7.6). Key work-process measures, including Surgical mortality 1.8% 15.3%
those directly and indirectly related to the provision Physician rating 86% 33%
of safe care, are addressed in 7.5. Leadership sets the Accreditation score 92 91
institution’s strategic objectives and priorities and is Overall score 7669 5418
responsible for monitoring progress toward these pri- St. Luke’s Hospital (SLH) Rank = 35 of 4,500
orities (7.6), of which safe care should be paramount. hospitals in United States

May 2009 • QP 41
Effectiveness: Evidence-based medicine has expe- stronger effectiveness-related outcomes compared
rienced continued refinement, with specific treatment with their peers. Looking to clinical measures of effec-
strategies demonstrating consistently better results for tiveness (see Online Figure 1 at www.qualityprogress.
patients with specific presenting conditions. com), one Baldrige award recipient shows results that
The delivery of effective care, as defined by the IOM, are better than measurements from the Centers for
relates to providing services to all who could benefit, Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As shown in
while refraining from providing services to those not Online Figure 2, the recipient performed better than lo-
likely to benefit—in other words, the effective use of cal competitors and as good as the best in the country,
evidence-based medicine as available and appropriate. as measured by the Agency for Healthcare Research
These practices and their corresponding results are ad- and Quality (AHRQ).
dressed in the healthcare outcomes criteria (7.1). Patient-centered care: The IOM aim of patient-
In addition to patient safety outcomes identified centered care emphasizes responsiveness to patient
earlier, the healthcare outcomes criteria ask for levels, preferences, needs and values. Similarly, category 3
trends and comparative results relative to healthcare of the Baldrige criteria and corresponding item 7.2 in
outcomes and patients’ functional status. the results section address patient and other customer-
An additional means by which overall effectiveness focused processes and outcomes.
is achieved is through the effective design, implemen- In particular, the results criteria ask for levels,
tation and improvement of healthcare delivery pro- trends and comparative data relative to patient/cus-
cesses. These processes are measured by item 7.5, tomer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, perceived val-
process effectiveness outcomes. In particular, 7.5 asks ue, retention and positive referral. These measures
for current levels and trends for the operational perfor- provide an indication of how a healthcare institution is
mance of key work processes, including productivity, performing relative to patient-centered care.
cycle time and other appropriate measures of process Similar to the aims already discussed, Baldrige
effectiveness. award recipients tend to demonstrate stronger patient-
Table 1 also identifies the workforce-focused item centered outcomes compared with their peers. Figure
(7.4) as relevant to the IOM effectiveness aim. This 3 shows high scores for patient loyalty at Bronson
connection is based on the importance of workplace Methodist Hospital, a Baldrige recipient. Table 2 shows
climate and engagement, particularly related to open- a comparison of customer value at award recipient
ness to new ideas, approaches and improvement op- Baptist Hospital Inc. in Pensacola, FL, and comparable
portunities to ensure ongoing gains in effectiveness. institutions.
Baldrige award recipients generally demonstrate Timeliness: In Baldrige terminology, timeliness is
one aspect of the process effectiveness outcomes cri-

Baldrige results and IOM aims / Table 1 teria (7.5).

In addition to the general operational performance
of work systems and key work processes, time-based
Baldrige 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6
results ⇒ Healthcare Patient Financial Workforce- Process Leadership measures play a large role in the criteria, given the
outcomes and other and market focused effective- outcomes significance of time performance to improving over-
IOM aims customer- outcomes outcomes ness
⇓ focused outcomes
all performance. Appropriate measures and indicators
Care is: outcomes of work system performance may include just-in-time
1. Safe • • • • delivery of healthcare and related services, plus other
indicators that demonstrate responsiveness, such as
2. Effective • • • •
cycle times, turnaround times, time to new healthcare
3. Patient- • service introduction and order fulfillment time.
Given the inherent emphasis on time-based mea-
4. Timely •
sures of performance, Baldrige award recipients regu-
5. Efficient • • • larly demonstrate reduced times on key measures
6. Equitable • • as compared with their peers. For example, Online
IOM = Institute of Medicine Figure 3 shows process speed improvement at Rob-

42 QP •

ert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, NJ,

a Baldrige winner, compared with Joint Commission
Loyalty and likeliness
results. Online Figure 4 shows a comparison between
to return / figure 3
the timeliness of antibiotics given and length of stay at Good
Bronson Methodist Hospital. 5 100
Efficiency: Also closely related to the timely deliv-

Percentile ranking
ery of care and services is the efficiency with which 4

Mean score
healthcare processes are delivered. Efficiency encom- 60
passes all forms of waste avoidance, including equip- 40
ment, supplies, human resources and even ignored 2
The aim of providing efficient care is related to mul- 1 0
Inpatient ER OP OP
tiple Baldrige results items:
surgery testing
• Financial and market outcomes (item 7.3) address-
Bronson Methodist BMH 1Q ‘05 projected
es financial performance measures, including levels Hospital (BMH) baseline BMH baseline percentile
and trends for budget performance—a measure of Gallup
financial efficiency.
ER = emergency room; OP = outpatient
• Workforce-focused outcomes (7.4) take into consid-
eration the concept of avoiding waste in the form
of ignored ideas. As noted earlier in reference to the aim of equitable care.
the IOM effectiveness aim, the importance of work- In addition, leadership results (7.6) measure a vari-
place climate and workforce engagement—particu- ety of factors, including support of key communities
larly related to openness to new ideas, approaches and contribution to the health of the community the
and improvement opportunities—can also signifi- institution serves, regardless of its characteristics.
cantly impact efficiency.
• Process effectiveness outcomes (7.5) address the
operational performance of work systems and key Customer survey scores / Table 2
work processes, including productivity and efficien-
Baptist Hospital Inc. (BHI)
cy measures. Indicators of process efficiency might
Issue BHI A B
include work system performance that demon-
strates increased cost savings, higher productivity Care/services
Patients are kept sufficiently informed about their +84 79 76
or waste reduction, such as the reduction of repeat condition/treatment.
diagnostic tests and cost reduction. Pain is well controlled. 84 80 77
Baldrige award recipients tend to demonstrate Personnel show concern for patients’ well-being. +88 78 73
stronger efficiency-related outcomes compared with Overall quality of health care provided is excellent. +83 78 74
their peers. Figure 4 (p. 44) shows how St. Luke’s Hos- Phone representatives at hospital are helpful. +84 77 73
pital of Kansas City increased its profit margins by Sufficient personal attention is given to patients. +83 77 70
eliminating internal inefficiencies. In Online Figure 5, Patient needs are met promptly. +79 73 70
despite increases in volume, Baptist Hospital Inc. tend- Waiting time for tests and treatment is reasonable. +77 71 68
ed to create the capacity for fast response times and
best-in-class performance. Patient needs are understood. +78 71 62
Equitable care: Healthcare results (7.1) address Location/environment
key measures of healthcare outcomes, including func- Parking is convenient. +76 62 49
tional status. Nurses
Although many Baldrige recipients serve lower in- Nurses show good attitide toward patient requests. +89 79 78
come and rural patients, their healthcare outcomes are Physicians
Overall quality of care provided by physician is excellent. 83 80 80
generally equal to or better than facilities serving more
affluent communities. Results such as these support + = Significantly above competition (A and B)

May 2009 • QP 43
Margin comparison / figure 4 Getting started
An organization can start using the Baldrige criteria to
18 create a change in culture leading to an improvement
16 Better in quality by completing two steps: the organizational
profile and the self-assessment.

Step one—organizational profile: The profile

serves as the DNA for an organization. It provides clar-
ity about who you are, what you do, for whom you do it,
4 what they expect, with whom you are competing and col-
2 laborating, your key strategic challenges and advantages,
0 and the approach you use to improve performance.
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Although the questions that must be answered are
St. Luke’s Hospital (SLH) seemingly straightforward, within many organiza-
Top quartile tions the responses have traditionally been treated as
Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems implicit assumptions rather than explicit assertions.
*SLH data represent best 5% of comparative group Arriving at a collective and uniform response to each
question provides focus to the leadership team and or-
ganization. This collective consciousness becomes the
Uncompensated cost context within which the organization operates and
comparison / figure 5 against which it manages its performance.
Step two—self-assessment: The profile describes
who you are and the environment in which you oper-
Percentage of total expenses
ate. The self-assessment describes how you currently
10% perform relative to the Baldrige criteria.
8% Current practices are reviewed and summarized in
6% the areas of leadership, strategic planning, customer
4% focus, measurement/analysis, knowledge management,
2% workforce focus, process management and results.
0% Although often an impressive document in its own
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 year right, the true value of this process comes from using
to date
the information to identify the organization’s strengths
North Mississippi Medical Center actual and opportunities for improvement, which are based
National, per American Hospital Association
on its responses to the criteria and placed in the con-
text of what it stated was important in its profile. The
Baldrige recipients tend to be able to spend more opportunities for improvement represent gaps that can
on uncompensated and charity care than comparable be prioritized, translated into goals and integrated into
institutions. Figure 5 shows how Baldrige recipient the organization’s strategic planning and performance
North Mississippi Medical Center posted uncompen- management processes.
sated expenses above a national average. Online Figure Completing the profile and self-assessment help an
6 shows how setting a percentage of operating margin organization readily see its gaps and current barriers to
in an environment of increased efficiency and financial success. Systematically using this information in the stra-
improvement resulted in increased charity care at Bal- tegic planning process will enable the development and
drige award recipient SSM Healthcare. achievement of meaningful goals and improvements.

Not just an award

Baldrige results The Baldrige criteria are not about receiving an
Are you interested in learning more about the exceptional business
award. In healthcare and hospitals, there are many
results achieved by Baldrige recipients? Go to
Contacts_Profiles.htm (case sensitive). quality awards and recognitions, but few nationally

44 QP •

recognized systematic and integrated approaches for CYNTHIA ST. JOHN is director of
journey to excellence for Texas Health
sustainable improvement. Resources in Houston. She earned
a doctorate in psychology, with a
There is a misconception that the criteria are diffi- research emphasis on organizational
cult to use and understand, are costly or that it takes learning and improvement, from the
University of Houston. She received
a long time to see benefit. In fact, the criteria are easy the 2008 Carroll Morrison Examiner
to understand. But changing an organization’s culture to Award for outstanding leadership and service to Quality
use the criteria can be a challenge. It requires leadership
commitment to drive excellence. A committed leader-
ship team can effectively create the culture
change required to begin using the criteria
within the organization. If this is done, the
payoff can be almost immediate.
There is a growing recognition within
healthcare of the value of the Baldrige cri-
teria. In 2008, 50% of the applicants that
applied for feedback from the Baldrige pro-
gram were from the healthcare sector. The
same is true for many state programs. Most
Baldrige award recipients prepared them-
selves to succeed at the national level by
participating in their state program.
Whatever the route taken, the results
show that the Baldrige criteria can provide
a structured way for healthcare institutions
to meet many of the seemingly overwhelm-
ing challenges they face today. QP

1. Baldrige Healthcare Criteria for Performance Excellence,
National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2008.
2. Crossing the Quality Chasm, Institute of Medicine, 2001.

To learn more about the Baldrige criteria, go to www.quality.
For more information about state Baldrige-based programs,
go to
Baldrige recipient information is available at www.quality.nist.
gov/Contacts_Profiles.htm (case sensitive).

WILLIAM DENNEY is CEO of the Quality

Texas Foundation. He earned a doctor-
ate in history from Miami University in
Oxford, OH. Denney is a senior mem-
ber of ASQ and is a certified quality
manager and auditor. He has been a
Baldrige examiner for 10 years and is
chair of the ASQ Quality Management
Division’s Baldrige technical committee.

LIZ YOUNGBLOOD, a registered nurse,

is vice president of patient care
support services for the Baylor Health
Care System in Dallas. She earned
an MBA from Southern Methodist
University in Dallas.

May 2009 • QP 45