In an ever-changing health care field, two things remain constant: (1) Hospitals and health systems must have an unflagging focus on improving the quality, safety, equity and patient-centeredness of the care they provide; and (2) Hospitals and their staffs are a vital part of the fabric of the communities they serve and are connected to their communities to strengthen the health and well-being of the community as a whole.

The AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize recognizes hospitals that are using a systems-based approach in pursuit of perfection and that have achieved measurable results. The three award-winning organizations this year certainly do that and more. They exemplify health care systems that ceaselessly strive to improve their quality while simultaneously seeking to serve additional needs of their communities.

Over the past 14 years, organizations of varying size, mission and location have received this honor. While we honor their accomplishments, each would acknowledge that they have had to overcome significant challenges along the way, and still have more challenges to face.

As important as it is to recognize what they have done, we also must acknowledge the remarkable willingness of these three organizations and those that were honored in prior years to share the very information that led to their success. In what other field do those in the lead reach out to help their colleagues catch up to them and succeed in their own right? This sharing is possible only because the men and women of health care are committed to advancing the health in their communities so that all individuals reach their highest potential for health.  

Here are some key learnings from the review of the 2016 prize applicants:

  • Leadership and board support are essential. Each of our award-winning hospitals has a CEO and board members who are actively engaged in quality improvement in their organization. The involvement goes much deeper than assuring that the right resources are available for improvement efforts, although that, too, is important. In each of the organizations, staff talk openly of the support they have as they act within their daily duties to ensure that their patients are cared for effectively, efficiently and safely. In every organization, it is well-known that one can interrupt a process to call attention to a safety concern and expect to have the full support of leadership. Leaders in these hospitals affirm the need for a safety culture.
  • Advancing diversity and addressing disparities remains a daunting challenge. Hospitals are striving to reduce disparities in health and health care, and know that one key to serving their communities better is to have leaders and board members who reflect the diversity within their community. Despite strong efforts to improve the diversity in leadership and board composition, it has been a struggle for most. 
  • Rising up to meet community needs can vastly strengthen community ties. Each of the award-winning hospitals is part of a community in which unmet needs became apparent, either through studies, such as community needs assessments or through unexpected events, such as hurricanes and the closure of nearby safety net hospitals. By bringing the resources and expertise of the hospital to the task of confronting the community challenge, these hospitals have strengthened their relationships with other providers in the community, with the educational system and with public officials in ways that are consistent with their mission and values. 

The AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize Committee congratulates the three organizations whose achievements stood out in a field of excellent applicants — the 2016 winner, Memorial Hospital in Springfield, Ill.; the finalist, Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston; and Citation of Merit recipient Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. The Quest for Quality Committee also thanks all those that applied for the 2016 awards, with a special thanks to those that hosted site visits. These organizations provide models and inspiration for the entire field. Please read their stories in the August issue of Hospitals & Health Networks at

Thomas W. Burke, M.D., is executive vice president and physician-in-chief at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and chair of the American Hospital Association–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize Committee.