Fifty-five pages, single spaced 10 point font, 2 column format and 165 graphics. This is a Baldridge application for a small rural hospital west of Olympia Washington. In adopting the Baldridge excellence framework they have gone on record saying, “we want to become the best”. Facilitating the discovery, identifying their systems and processes and then writing the document was a privilege. Exhausting for sure. Five and a half months of workshops, 4-5 complete rewrites, hours of edits, checks and double checks. Still bound to be a few errors. Frustrating but the lessons are massive.
Baldridge is brilliant. I have been in the Baldrige world for six or seven years. With each touch of the Baldrige system I am more aware of its brilliance. Nothing is more comprehensive, demanding, or relentless in pursuing excellence than the Baldridge framework.
Excellence is not a mystery. Baldridge takes the mystery out of the pursuit. With the final edit their next step in the journey is crystal clear. Every health care organization is swimming in data. They are paddling as fast as they can a river of numbers. A myriad of regulatory, oversight, government and private organizations require, gather, and assemble mountains of data for public consumption. Much of it is buried in data warehouses where the statistical relevance is debated by some who want to resist change and others that want to prove preconceived notions about health care. But the numbers are there. This organization’s next hurdle is lining up their data with their vision. When they do this, look out.
Baldridge promotes systems thinking. Having worked with this hospital for a year in developing a formal leadership system, it is clearer than ever that health care is a web of interconnecting systems that must be integrated if the cost of health care is ever going to be contained. This hospital is the primary health care provider in a county of high unemployment, high rates of drug & alcohol abuse, and high poverty. Three years ago the county was ranked #33 out of 39 counties for population health. Today they are at #28. Sounds like a minor advance but they have moved the dial on a clock that is hard to move. By recognizing that medical health cannot be separated from behavioral and social health and by partnering with social service organizations and even competitors this little hospital is making an impact. They have begun to integrate social, behavioral and medical health care delivery. They have recognized that treating the cause of illness is immeasurably cheaper than treating the symptoms of illness. The result is that their patients are healthier, at a lower cost and enjoy greater access.
Baldrige provided the framework for excellence. They provided the vision.