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Baldrige Quality Award equals ongoing journey for NMMC

When representatives of North Mississippi Medical Center traveled to Washington, D.C. in March to officially receive the 2006 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, they rejoiced in winning the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence. But looking forward, they also recognize that a commitment to quality is a never-ending journey.

“The Baldrige process is not about preparing an awards application,” said John Heer, president and chief executive officer of North Mississippi Health Services, the parent company of North Mississippi Medical Center. “In fact, if you look at it from that perspective, you’ll never advance in the application process. The Baldrige journey is about cultural transformation.”

Heer should know. He’s been a part of winning Baldrige initiatives in Tupelo and in Florida. The 2006 Baldrige Award recipients — NMMC in healthcare, MESA Products Inc. in Tulsa, Okla,. in small business, and Premier Inc. of San Diego, Calif., in service — were selected from a field of 76 hopefuls. An independent board of examiners rigorously evaluated applicants in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; human resources focus; process management; and results.

No time to rest

While a team of 63 NMMC members ranging from staff members and physicians to board members and community volunteers traveled for the awards ceremony, they haven’t had time to rest on their laurels since arriving back in Mississippi. Many are sharing the Baldrige story as agenda and/or keynote speakers at quality forums and outcomes management conferences throughout the nation, and will continue to do so during the remainder of the year. The group will be available for “sharing days” in Tupelo later this year and will participate in various webinars.

“It feels great to be able to have a positive influence on other organizations around the country and the world,” Heer said. “As far as the quality mission, it serves as a continual reminder of the obligation we now have as a Baldrige recipient.”

Importantly, NMMC leaders are continuing their own internal focus on quality improvement, aiming to learn from comments and observations made by Baldrige evaluators. North Mississippi Medical Center president Chuck Stokes and chief medical officer Dr. Ken Davis stress that winning the Baldrige and having others interested in what NMMC has done helps to validate cultural changes and care processes that the health care organization has worked hard to establish.

Heer stated that the organization continues to be passionate about its mission, vision and values and strives to operationalize its MVVs through defined critical success factors (people, service, quality, financial, growth). “You have to set goals, measure your success and relate your results to benchmark organizations,” Heer said. “You have to focus relentlessly on your employees and physicians. You have to create a culture of quality that is patient-focused. You have to communicate with everyone and you have to celebrate your successes.”

Willingness to learn

A willingness to constantly learn is a critical factor in advancing quality initiatives. “In our servant leader education and feedback, we have learned that leading by influence is much more effective than leading by authority,” Davis noted.

Heer observed that the organization’s alignment — its ability to get everyone focused on the same things — and its deployment — its ability to keep everyone knowledgeable and engaged regarding goals and objectives — was a plus with Baldrige evaluators. NMMC was also commended for its commitment to the community and its community involvement, its clinical quality initiatives and its physician and employee engagement. Heer stated that these are key factors that continue as focus priorities.

Taking NMMC-Tupelo to “the next level of quality” and taking the Baldrige principles to the rest of the NMHS system are key elements on the quality agenda moving forward, according to Heer. As far as other improvements, Heer said the organization will continue its emphasis on strategic planning.

Heer, Stokes and Davis stressed the years of work that went into Baldrige recognition and commended members of the organizational system that continue to dedicate their best efforts to ongoing quality.

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