Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Improving Ourselves for the Sake of Others: Our Baldrige Journey

Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Improving Ourselves for the Sake of Others: Our Baldrige Journey

Article excerpt

Our climb started when our community worked together, making sacrifices to bring this healthcare system into being more than 30 years ago, and it continues to this day. Critical to our success has been the identification of our strengths and those we still need to develop to be successful for years to come. These strengths became our core competencies, our footholds for the climb: relationship building, values-driven culture, and execution.

Being named a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient is not the work of the CEO alone or the CEO along with just the executive team. Achieving the levels of performance and results required to be named a recipient is attainable only when the entire team is engaged and actively pursuing worldclass performance. At HCM, employees, physicians, and volunteers developed into a high-performing team and continually improved themselves for the sake of others. Realization of this goal is not the end but rather a milestone on our performance excellence journey.

The decision to embark on a journey, whether it be climbing Mount Everest or moving an organization's performance from mediocre to remarkable, requires a significant level of commitment, perseverance, and willingness to learn from mistakes, as well as the ability to motivate a team toward a vision. Such was the mindset of HCM's board of trustees and executives in 2008 as we began our performance excellence climb. Like leaders in many other hospitals and health systems across the nation striving to improve the quality and safety of care, the patient experience, and financial performance, HCM's leaders looked to organizations that were consistently outperforming others and found a common element. That element was the adoption of the Baldrige Framework to achieve long-term sustainability. The foresight of those leaders led to our ability to provide world-class healthcare and service to our customers, grow our market base, and maintain financial viability in an ever-changing and increasingly challenging healthcare environment. The journey to achieving our current level of performance and receiving recognition as a Baldrige Award recipient was not easy. The climb was steep, but once we committed to it, we strove to find the best and most efficient path to the summit. Along the way, we learned new skills, innovative approaches, and other lessons to aid us.


The history of how HCM got its start is the beginning of our climb, the bedrock of our values, and a legacy of the trust our community placed in us to provide a healthcare system designed to serve them for generations to come. It is our stewardship of this legacy that led us to pursue the Baldrige Framework for Performance Excellence. Hospitals are havens for healing and hope, centers for compassion and care. In rural communities like ours, a hospital often provides the town's sturdiest economic and civic foundations. Our interests, successes, and concerns are woven into the fabric of our community because the community's residents created us to take care of their families, friends, and neighbors. People reached into their pockets and filled mason jars with nickels and dimes to fund the hospital at its inception. Ninety-three percent of Gillespie County households contributed to the building of the hospital, and when the doors of HCM were opened on Valentine's Day 1971, it was the realization of a community's dream.


By 2008, HCM leaders were confident in the quality of care and service provided to our patients and the community. In fact, everyone believed it to be outstanding- that is, until we started benchmarking. When we began to compare ourselves with others, we found that, in many areas, we were performing at or below the national median. This reality was difficult to face, and we had to overcome our initial excuses for the performance gaps. You might recognize some of them:

* We are smaller.

* Our patients are sicker. …

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