Health systems muster their Baldridge power

By Bernie Monegain
12:12 PM

Information technology helped AtlantiCare in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., and Heartland Health in St. Joseph, Mo., win 2009 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards.

The award is the nation’s highest presidential honor for organizational innovation and performance excellence.

AtlantiCare, a nonprofit health system in southeastern New Jersey, is the largest health provider in the region. Through InfoShare, its technology company, the organization uses electronic medical records and its Connected Community Health Information Exchange to improve patient safety and quality and capture and share all health information, such as scheduling, clinical documentation and claims submission.

AtlantiCare is rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the top 10 percent nationally for performance in patient care measures related to congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction and pneumonia. Also, based on CMS data, the organization was ranked seventh of 4,200 hospitals in 2006 by the Commonwealth Fund for clinical results in care of patients.

“The receipt of this award is not the end of our quality journey. In many ways it is just the beginning,” said David Tilton, AtlantiCare’s CEO. “Baldrige Award winners have the opportunity and the responsibility of sharing our performance excellence strategies with other organizations in the country. We are looking forward to acting as mentors and role models to others who aspire to offer the highest quality of care and service to their patients and customers.”

Heartland Health is a nonprofit, community-based healthcare system serving a 22-county market in portions of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. It incorporates an electronic medical record system into its Lewis and Clark Information Exchange (LACIE) program, which establishes a lifetime medical record for patients in the region and provides healthcare professionals with an aggregate view of a patient’s healthcare information across multiple providers and states.

Heartland Health also uses its Performance Management Program to deliver a repeatable system to support high-performance work. The four-part program cascades organizational goals to individual goals, supports employees’ performance through evaluations and individual education plans and acknowledges workers through a rewards program.

“Heartland is a unique healthcare system, comprised of four fully-integrated entities,” said Mark Laney, MD, Heartland’s president and CEO. “Heartland Regional Medical Center and Heartland Clinic provide our community with the best and safest care by managing acute and chronic disease, illness and injury in a clinical setting.”

The Baldrige program is managed by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology in conjunction with the private sector. Named for Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the award was established by Congress in 1987 to enhance the competitiveness and performance of U.S. businesses.

“This year’s recipients have shown how quality, innovation, and an unending quest for excellence help strengthen our nation and brighten the future of all Americans,” said President Obama in announcing the 2009 recipients.

“They have raised the bar for innovation and organizational excellence and, in the process, help to improve our economy and quality of life,” added Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

The 2009 award recipients were selected from a field of 70 applicants. In addition to AtlantiCare and Heartland Health, the 2009 recipients are Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies of Kansas City, Mo. (manufacturing), MidwayUSA of Columbia, Mo. (small business) and VA Cooperative Studies Program Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center of Albuquerque, N.M. (nonprofit).

Previous Baldrige winners in the healthcare sector include Baptist Hospital Inc., a subsidiary of Baptist HealthCare, in Pensacola, Fla. and St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City in 2003; Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton in 2004; Bronson Healthcare Group, an integrated health system in southwestern Michigan in 2005; North Mississippi Medical Center in 2006; Sharp HealthCare in San Diego and Mercy Health System in Janesville, Wis. in 2007; and Poudre Valley Health System, Fort Collins, Colo., in 2008.