Professional awards often are seen as a way to inspire others in a given field and to enable them to learn from the winners’ success. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards, on the other hand, are designed so applicants can learn from themselves as they go through the process, according to Robert Fangmeyer, director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

“It’s very common for organizations to use the Baldrige Excellence Framework to help guide their quality efforts,” he says. “It’s really as much a leadership and management guide as an awards program.”

This year’s health care recipient couldn’t agree more. The Baldrige process gave Charleston (W.Va.) Area Medical Center Health System “an overarching framework for the system, not just quality measurements,” says system CEO Dave Ramsey. “Having clinical outcome quality was a given, but Baldrige added ways to achieve quality in our support of the community, our working relationship with vendors, our relationship with the medical staff, medical researchers and the workforce, pretty much everything.”

In his 30-plus years working in the health care field, CAMCHS’s Chief Quality Officer Dale Wood says he’s never seen a process in which he’s learned so much about building quality excellence. “It’s remarkable,” he says. “The award itself will drive your quality program.”

Now more than ever, the quality framework is a useful tool given the ongoing transition to value-based, quality-driven health care says. “Today, with all the changes to health care reimbursement that rewards quality rather than quantity, our framework is perfectly aligned to allow organizations to measure their results,” Fangmeyer says. “If you were to look back at prior award winners in health care over the last 25 years, you’d see these organizations were already using quality measurements that weren’t being measured in the health care community as a whole.”