The Role of Health Care Innovation in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award

The Role of Health Care Innovation in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award

By the Innovations Exchange Team, based on an interview with Baldrige Judge Patricia Martinez, MD, MPH


Congress created the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1987 to promote excellence in organizational performance, recognize the achievements of U.S. organizations, and publicize successful performance strategies. The initial focus of the awards was on improving the performance of the business sector to position the United States as a global economic leader. After seeing the caliber of business organizations improve dramatically, the award was expanded to other sectors. The first health care organization to receive the Baldrige Award was the SSM Health Care in St. Louis, MO, in 2002. Since then, 11 other health care organizations have received the Baldrige Award.

What is unique about the Baldrige Award program?

Patricia Martinez: We believe the seven Baldrige categories we use to evaluate an organization's performance—leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results—provide a unique system's perspective and framework for any organization to improve its performance. High performing organizations will align these processes with their mission and integrate them to improve performance.

What role does innovation play in the organization's pursuit and preparation of the award criteria?

Organizations begin their Baldrige journey by analyzing their performance in each of the six process categories, where the gaps are, and what processes they need to implement or change to achieve better results. Innovation occurs in the development of these processes. For example, Poudre Valley Health System, a 2008 award recipient, and Heartland Health , a 2009 award recipient, developed an innovative electronic scorecard to evaluate progress on key measures related to their strategic objectives. This would meet the criteria in the measurement, analysis, and knowledge management category.

You mentioned that the integration of processes is important. What are examples from health care recipients?

Poudre Valley Health System developed a Global Path to Success, which is a performance improvement system and framework used by senior managers and staff to integrate key processes. This would meet the criteria in the leadership and process management categories. In addition, Heartland Health developed a Health Pyramid that aligns its various entities to advance its mission and improve the health of individuals and communities. This would meet the leadership criteria and the customer-focus criteria, which is broadly defined to include the needs of patients and communities.

What role does innovation play in the award selection process?

Successful organizational innovation is a multistep process involving development and knowledge sharing, the decision to implement, implementation, evaluation, and learning. The difference between continuous quality improvement and breakthrough or disruptive innovation is that the former produces incremental change while the latter produces dramatic change. We look for examples of disruptive innovation throughout the six process categories and how well these processes are aligned with organizational needs, fully deployed throughout the organization, and sustained through the use of excellent use of measures, learning, and sharing of best practices.

How do you evaluate performance improvement?

We look for evidence that the disruptive innovation has improved organizational performance. We also look at the quality of an organization's performance, any gaps in processes and results, and compare its performance to other local health care organizations and Baldrige Award health care applicants. We also compare an organization's performance against national and global trends for all criteria, and assess whether the results show beneficial trends that are sustained with benchmark performance levels through all areas of the organization.

How does the Baldrige Award program disseminate the winners' best practices?

The recipients are expected to be role models for other organizations and share their performance excellence journeys with interested organizations from any sector. The winners are also expected to share their innovative practices at the National Quest Conference held in April sponsored by the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the American Society for Quality and two regional conferences sponsored by the National and State Baldrige Award programs. Recipients are also expected to present their “success stories” describing their best practices at public speaking engagements.

About Patricia Martinez, MD, MPH: Dr. Martinez is currently on the Panel of Judges for the Baldrige National Quality Program and served as a Baldrige National Quality Program Senior Examiner and facilitator from 2004 to 2009.

She is the Senior Vice-President of Clinical Excellence and Chief Quality Officer for Carondelet Health Network in Tucson, AZ, and the Executive Sponsor of high-reliability and patient safety for the West Ministry of Ascension Health. Dr. Martinez provides clinical vision and strategic leadership toward achieving the highest standards of patient care, clinical and service excellence at Carondelet Health Network and across the Ascension West Ministries.

Dr. Martinez spent 6 months in the Health Care Quality Improvement Fellowship at Intermountain Health Care in Salt Lake City and earned her Master's degree in Public Health and Health Services at the University of Washington, Seattle. She earned her undergraduate and medical degrees at Texas A & M and completed a Pediatric Residency Program at the University of Arizona.

Disclosure Statement: Dr. Martinez is currently on the Panel of Judges for the Baldrige National Quality Program and served as a Baldrige National Quality Program Senior Examiner and facilitator from 2004 to 2009.

Suggested Readings

Latham J, Vinyard J. The Baldrige User's Guide: Organization Diagnosis, Design, and Transformation, 4th edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2010.

Spong D, Collard DJ. The Making of a World-Class Organization . Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press; 2008.

Christensen C. The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business . New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers; 2003.

Publish Date: 12/08/10
Date Last Updated: 03/26/14

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.