Posted by Christine Schaefer
Since earning a Baldrige Award in 2005, Bronson Methodist Hospital has nearly doubled in size. Today, the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based health care provider is part of the Bronson Healthcare system serving patients in nine counties in the southwest region of the state.
According to Sue Reinoehl, the system’s senior vice president of strategy and communication, such growth “makes it challenging to ensure that we are delivering the same high-quality patient experience across our system.” But she sees the Baldrige framework for performance excellence as an excellent tool to drive alignment.
“We’re deploying our strategies across the system utilizing the Baldrige framework that helps us maintain our hallmark patient-centered focus. We’ve had this strategic discipline and cascade at our leadership and staff levels, and now we are applying the same discipline to our board processes,” Reinoehl said.
“We have been working over the past three years on formalizing performance improvement for governance built on benchmarking, cycles of improvement, and the strategic plan for the system. We call it, appropriately, the Governance Performance Process.”
According to Reinoehl, the annual process includes review of the strategic plan and what changes the board might need to make to better support the plan. It also includes a self-evaluation of board effectiveness and best practices. This information culminates at a board retreat, where opportunities for improvement and recommendations are identified, resulting in board goals and future education topics.
Reinoehl shared that this process has resulted in important improvements. For example, it revealed a need for a change in the governance board’s bylaws that did not allow employees to serve on the board. Like many hospitals, Bronson was employing more physicians (as opposed to working with independently employed physicians as partners) and needed a more contemporary policy regarding physicians serving on the board. This discussion raised additional questions about independence, committee chairs, and conflicts of interest. The Governance Performance Process provided clarity and resulted in welcoming employed physicians on the board.
Reinoehl first got involved with Baldrige when Bronson Methodist Hospital (PDF) was preparing to apply for the Baldrige Award about ten years ago. Initially, “I pretty much got dragged into it,” she joked. But she added that she soon became convinced of the opportunity that a better aligned and deployed strategic planning process could have on the organization’s outcomes.
“Through the Baldrige framework, we developed discrete processes and formalized deployment so we could cascade the strategies throughout the organization; we call it our ‘Strategic Management Model,’” she said. “As a result, we achieved a common understanding of the vision and direction and how everything could help support it. And that generated better outcomes.”
Reinoehl was selected as a national Baldrige examiner in 2007. In the years following her organization’s Baldrige Award, she has continued to educate others about use of the Baldrige framework by her organization. “I am surprised how many hospitals still contact us to discuss how Baldrige has helped us. It’s great to continue to learn what others are doing,” she said.
“Baldrige is about having formal, systematic cycles of improvement,” she said. “It’s something you just live as an organization. And since Baldrige is all about continuous improvement, it never stops.”
Given that perspective, her organization is now focused on future improvements.
“We’re now designing a new leadership system that’s based on what we call Evidence-Driven Improvement. It integrates Lean and Baldrige and other improvement tools,” she said. “It will be key in building our leadership competencies for the future.”
Attend the Baldrige Regional Conference in Minneapolis on September 23 to learn more about how Bronson Healthcare uses the Baldrige framework to improve board performance and that of the entire system. Reinoehl will present a morning session September 23. Download the full schedule (PDF) of presentations and register soon.