It’s a challenging time to be a hospital in America. On top of working hard to advance the health of individuals and communities, American hospitals face constant legislative and regulatory obstacles, all while redefining themselves in a field that is rapidly shifting. This makes it all the more impressive that so many hospitals are going beyond the call of duty to do exceptional work on critical health care issues. The American Hospital Association has more than a dozen major national awards to honor that good work.

Many hospitals are seeking ways to improve patient and family satisfaction through advanced illness management. The Circle of Life Award honors innovative programs in an important area: palliative and end-of-life care. Any organization or group in the United States that provides palliative or end-of-life care can be nominated. Winners are chosen each year, and other organizations receive Citations of Honor. The programs and innovations of all the honorees are described in this issue of Hospitals & Health Networks. Their stories also appear in each year’s Circle of Life Award booklet, which is widely circulated and serves as an inspiration to health care organizations’ looking for new ways to meet the needs of individuals and families early in life-limiting illnesses or to use palliative care expertise to ease pain, suffering and other symptoms for patients of all ages and prognoses. The Circle of Life Award honorees often receive extensive local media coverage, creating excellent opportunities for communities to learn about their important efforts.

Dramatically improving quality of care is another area of intense focus for hospitals. The goals of the American Hospital Association–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize are to raise awareness of the need for a hospitalwide commitment to highly reliable, exceptional -quality, patient-centered care; reward successful efforts to develop and promote a systems-based approach toward improvements in quality of care; inspire hospitals to systematically integrate and align their quality improvement efforts throughout the organization; and communicate successful programs and strategies to the hospital field.

State, regional and metropolitan hospital associations also play an important leadership role improving the quality of care. The AHA’s Dick Davidson Quality Milestone Award for Allied Association Leadership recognizes associations that have engaged in exceptional initiatives to improve quality in the hospitals they serve and to raise the bar for hospital and health system performance improvement across the country. The award is named for AHA President Emeritus Dick Davidson, a leading advocate of quality and the role of hospital associations in leading improvement efforts.

As hospitals continue to work outside their four walls to improve the health care status of their communities, it’s more important than ever for them to partner with other organizations. The AHA NOVA Award is one way to call attention to the innovative collaborations in which hospitals are now engaged to bring better health to the populations they serve. The award itself is collaborative, a joint effort of the AHA and Hospitals & Health Networks.

You can learn more about all of AHA’s awards, and how you or your organization can make a nomination or be nominated, at www.aha.org/about/awards/index.shtml.

Rich Umbdenstock
President and CEO, American Hospital Association