Colo. health system wins 2008 Baldrige Award

Poudre Valley Health System, a private not-for-profit healthcare organization in northern Colorado, has won the 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

The Baldrige Award is the nation's highest Presidential honor for organizational innovation and performance excellence. The Baldrige program is managed by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology in conjunction with the private sector. Named after 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.

In announcing the 2008 recipients of the award, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez praised PVHS as a "role model" embodying the values of excellence and principled leadership.

"Quality, innovation and competitiveness are essential to maintaining America's global leadership," he said. He noted that PVHS has shown a continuing "commitment to employees, customers, partners and community."

PVHS provides healthcare services through two hospitals (Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., and the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colo.) and a network of clinics and care facilities. The health system serves patients in northern Colorado, western Nebraska and southern Wyoming.

"This has been a 10-year journey," said Rulon Stacey, president and CEO of PVHS. "When other healthcare organizations have been content to simply 'do their budget' every year, this organization not only met its budget but looked at every process and determined to do everything better."

With annual revenues of $330.5 million, PVHS has been praised for maintaining competitive healthcare costs when compared to local competitors who have a similar patient base and to average healthcare costs in the Denver metropolitan area, which is the PVHS secondary service area.

In 2006, for instance, the average PVHS charge was $2,000 lower than its main competitor and $7,000 lower than the Denver metro rate.

PVHS has also been lauded for involving patients and the community in strategic planning, goal setting and improvement initiatives. For example, community, staff and stakeholder input was incorporated into the planning and building of the Medical Center of the Rockies. This included aspects such as the layout of the emergency rooms, views from patient rooms (with the majority facing the mountains), healing gardens, and family amenities such as showers and kitchens.

The health system also works with community leaders to identify and address specific health needs in the region. Among the community wellness, education and preventive health programs are ones for heart disease, prenatal issues, child safety and injury avoidance. PVHS reports that total community support surpassed $110 million  -  or greater than 25 percent of net patient revenue  -  in 2007.

"This is a system that has made a commitment to partnering with its physicians," said Bill Neff, MD, chief medical officer at PVHS. "That sounds like a simple thing, but there are a lot of systems that treat their physicians like competitors."

The 2008 Baldrige recipients were selected from a field of 85 applicants. All applicants were evaluated by an independent board of examiners in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results.

The evaluation process for each Baldrige recipient includes about 1,000 hours of review and an on-site visit by a team of examiners to clarify questions and verify information in the applications.

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