Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award goes to NMMC

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Published: December 11,2006

TUPELO — Just a few years ago, North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC) faced a barrage of criticism from groups ranging from community residents to patients to state legislators, with many questioning whether the hospital had veered from its purpose of serving the community.

Fast-forward to November 2006, and a much different picture emerges. Following an announcement by President George W. Bush and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, the medical center became one of three organizations named as a recipient of the 2006 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award — the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence.

This year’s recipients, which also included Tulsa, Oklahoma-based MESA Products Inc. and San Diego, California-based Premier Inc., were selected from a field of 76 applicants, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce release. The winners should be presented with their awards in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., early next year.

Citing the companies’ “innovative practices, commitment to excellence and outstanding results,” Gutierrez tagged the organizations as “role models for any organization striving for world-class performance.” In winning the award, NMMC joins an elite group: Since 1988, 67 organizations have received the award, according to the Commerce Department.

Competition is rigorous, as companies complete a 50-page application, which is then evaluated by groups of examiners. The top applicants are then reviewed via site visits, where application information is verified and clarified. Seven factors are assessed during the process: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; human resources; process management; and results.

Elements contributing to NMMC’s successful achievement of the award include: a commitment to community health; a comprehensive system of electronic records; and improvements in patient care, assisted by efforts in community education, effective use of resources and ongoing upgrading of employee skills.

From a community perspective, NMMC provided services to 156,750 people in 2006 through free health fairs, screenings, health education and CPR classes and immunization programs held throughout the region in churches, shopping centers and other locations. Charitable donations, charity care, medical cost savings and volunteer services total approximately $70 million annually, according to NMMC.

From a records standpoint, NMMC provides access to an electronic medical record to every caregiver throughout its system. Information on the medical record can be retrieved and entered by nurses in schools, by physicians in their offices and by partner community hospitals across the 24-county region that NMMC serves. Medical Center officials say that this helps reduce medical errors and duplication of effort. Specialists and primary care providers in remote sites can be linked via a state-of-the-art telemedicine system.

In its efforts to improve patient care to people in the region, NMMC provides nurses to 23 elementary and middle schools, certified health educators to three schools serving K-5th grade students and certified athletic trainers to 13 high schools.

A Care-Based Cost Management approach has provided cumulative gains of $11.1 million since 1999, largely as a result of reducing practice variations and medical complications, according to NMMC.

John Heer, chief executive officer of North Mississippi Health Services, was also part of a Baldrige-winning team at a Florida hospital in Pensacola. In an interview following NMMC’s award, Heer said that win or lose, the Baldrige process assists companies in “getting better faster” and “serves as a platform for change.”

Heer said that “hardwiring the alignment of the organization” along its Mission, Vision, Values and Critical Success Factors designated as People, Service, Quality, Financial and Growth was important in achieving the Baldrige honor. Heer also cites the adoption of Servant Leadership principles as a critical element in the company’s successful application.

Heer said that the commitment to excellence goes beyond any individual award and that the momentum generated by a prestigious honor such as Baldrige is a motivator toward continued improvement throughout the entire system.

“This entire process breaks down barriers between different areas and fosters an environment of teamwork,” Heer said. “This is the best time for advancing change because everyone is focused and motivated to change.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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