If you have ever been involved in an awards and recognition program, I think you will agree with me on one point: Awards can be a lot of work. You have to write criteria and have a plan to publicize the nominations process. The nominations must be reviewed and judged, which can take a lot of time and effort. If there is a financial award attached, funds must be identified or raised. Then, of course, the award must be presented in a meaningful way.

So why bother with awards? From an organizational perspective, the answer is clear: The rewards of awards can be immense. Clearly, they provide a means to publicly recognize individuals or organizations that excel in a desired behavior — whether it's commitment (as in the American Hospital Association's various leadership awards), performance (as in awards that recognize gains in quality, innovation, etc.) or something else you want to encourage. When the award is presented by a national organization like the AHA, the recognition of peers and the recipient's community multiplies its value — local media outlets are often more than happy to share the good news. Awards have a tendency to sustain the very positive behaviors they recognize in the recipients. And sometimes, the value of the visibility the award achieves can help justify the human and capital investments that continuous improvement demands.

These are all good reasons to have awards. But there is one more, and it's important: The power of awards extends far beyond their recipients. Awards can encourage others to act. Sometimes it's friendly competition; other times, it's inspiration. Whatever it is, the result is leadership by example — a positive behavior in and of itself.

At the Health Forum and American Hospital Association Leadership Summit last month, we presented a number of important organizational leadership awards. The American Hospital Association–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize recognizes hospitals for their leadership and innovation in quality improvement and safety. We honor effective, collaborative programs focused on improving community health status with the AHA NOVA Awards; innovative programs in palliative and end-of-life care with the Circle of Life Award; and hospitals that are adopting health information technology with the Most Wired recognition. State, regional or metropolitan hospital associations are considered for the Dick Davidson Quality Milestone Award for Allied Association Leadership. A group of individual leadership awards is presented at the AHA Annual Meeting.

Awards and recognition efforts create the most value when everyone gets involved. I encourage you to check out AHA's awards roster to learn how you or your organization can nominate or be nominated for a future award.

Rich Umbdenstock

President, American Hospital Association