By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A second Baldrige National Quality Award will come home to Northeast Mississippi.
North Mississippi Health Services has followed in the footsteps of its flagship hospital – North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo – to claim the nation’s highest honor for business. They remain the only Mississippi organizations to claim the award.
“It’s a great honor for all of us,” said John Heer, president and chief executive officer of North Mississippi Health Services. “It demonstrates that we’ve focused on the right things for a long, sustained time.”
The health care system, which includes hospitals in Tupelo, Iuka, Pontotoc, West Point, Eupora and Hamilton, Ala., and 34 medical clinics around the region, was selected the first time it applied for the award, which requires a rigorous internal examination process.
“That’s a pretty rare feat,” Heer said.
NMMC-Tupelo applied four times before it won the award in 2006.
The work to spread the Baldrige process of continuous quality improvement from NMMC-Tupelo through the rest of the system goes back years, and the community hospitals and clinics have embraced it, said Karen Koch, who was part of the Baldrige team leading up to 2006 and now serves as the organizational performance administrator.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” Koch said. “We really started after we won the last award.”
The Baldrige examiners visited in early October, and they were especially impressed by the people they met in the community hospitals and clinics.
“They were so wowed by the clinic physicians” that they canceled additional meetings they had planned, Koch said.
The Baldrige examiners – volunteer judges who rigorously pour over the 50-page applications – highlighted a number of areas for the system:
• Outstanding results in outpatient diabetes management.
• Community health gains such as more colorectal cancer screening and decreases in smokers in the region.
• Patient safety measures such as strong performance in Joint Commission surgical care improvement project measures and no central line-associated blood stream infections in intensive care over the past two years.
• Strong patient, employee and physician satisfaction survey results across the system.
• Sharing performance results with staff, partners, patients and other stakeholders.
The true value of the Baldrige award is the internal examination, discipline and focus the process requires, hospital leaders said.
“It makes this institution a better prepared company,” said Ripley banker Bobby Martin, who serves as the president of the board for North Mississippi Health Services.
It’s a huge point of pride for the community that the region’s largest employer has been recognized among the best in the country, said Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed. The work of the hospital system makes a tremendous impact.
“Quality health care translates directly to our community’s quality of life and quality of place,” Reed said.
North Mississippi Health Services will formally receive the award in Baltimore in April, but the quality improvement journey will continue for the health care system long after that. The system will receive a detailed report in December that will include opportunities for improvement.
“You’re never finished,” Heer said.
Baldrige examination, competition intense
The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is the nation’s highest honor for business and is overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Since 1988, 93 organizations have received the Baldrige, including Motorola, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Boeing, 3M, Xerox, Federal Express and Merrill Lynch.
Along with North Mississippi Health Services, the 2012 award winners are Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie, Texas, the c1
ity of Iriving, Texas, and Mesa Products of Tulsa, which also won the 2006 Baldrige with NMMC-Tupelo.
There have been six repeat winners in the Baldrige history. NMMC-Tupelo and North Mississippi Health Services join Cargill and AT&T as the only organizations that can claim multiple Baldrige awards within their larger company families.
The Baldrige process involves a rigorous schedule of internal examination and the creation of a 50-page application. Volunteer examiners comb through the application. If an applicant is chosen for a site visit on the strength of the application, the examiners spend days verifying and clarifying the details of the application with the organization’s leadership and front-line employees.
Being selected for a Baldrige doesn’t mean organizations do everything perfectly, but they do show commitment to quality and results across the board, including leadership, planning, customer-focus, tracking results, developing employees and managing their production or processes. The entire organization, from administration to front-line employees, have to be on the same page.
There are six categories that Baldrige awards can be given in: Manufacturing, service, small business, health care, education and nonprofit.
In 2012, North Mississippi Health Services was one of 39 applicants for the Baldrige. The competition within the health care category was intense; they accounted for seven of the 12 organizations selected for site visits.
This year for the first time, recognitions were given to honor best practices in one or more criteria categories for organizations not selected as Baldrige winners. Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tenn., which is led by Robert Otwell, was recognized for strategic planning and workforce focus. He served as president of NMMC-Tupelo until 2005 and was a part of the hospital’s early Baldrige journey.