Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey
Disparities in health care are prevalent in rural America, where providers face very different obstacles from their urban counterparts. But North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC), the largest rural hospital in the United States, has demonstrated that the Baldrige Health Care Criteria can drive improvements to results—indeed excellent results—in rural health care.
According to the National Rural Health Association,
- Only about 10% of physicians practice in rural America despite the fact that nearly one-fourth of the population lives in these areas.
- Although only one-third of all motor vehicle accidents occur in rural areas, two-thirds of the deaths attributed to these accidents occur on rural roads.
- On average, per capita income is $7,417 lower than in urban areas, and rural Americans are more likely to live below the poverty level. Nearly 24% of rural children live in poverty.
- Anywhere from 57 to 90 percent of first responders in rural areas are volunteers.
- Rural residents have greater transportation difficulties reaching health care providers.
Facing these challenges, NMMC, a 650-bed hospital, received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2006. NMMC serves as the flagship hospital and referral center for North Mississippi Health Services, a nonprofit health care-delivery system serving 24 rural counties in northeast Mississippi and northwest Alabama. NMMC wrote in its Award application, "For too long, Mississippi placed last or near last among the nation in education, income, and health. No longer. North Mississippi Medical Center . . . is now a health care organization prepared to inspire all health care organizations in the United States to higher levels of performance."
And the rural hospital has done just that:
- Recognizing the difficulty of recruiting health care professionals to the rural areas it serves, NMMC focuses on “growing its own.” For example, in 2008, its parent organization received the American Society for Training and Development's BEST Award for dedication to continuous learning and growth opportunities for employees.
- NMMC’s charity care has totaled more than $300 million over the last five years, according to its most recent community report.
- In 2008, NMMC was ranked among Thomson Reuters 100 top hospitals.
- At the time it received the Baldrige Award, NMMC reported that deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) rates has been reduced 65% and pulmonary embolism rates reduced 45%, resulting in cost savings of more than $760,000.
- When benchmarked with the Surgical Thoracic Society and the CareScience patient outcomes database, NMMC's results for patients receiving coronary bypass surgery show fewer infections and postoperative stroke and pulmonary complications.
- In its most recent national Employee Opinion Survey, NMMC ranked in the 98th percentile for employee satisfaction, and Modern Healthcare magazine has named it one of the 100 best places to work in health care.
Another resource that demonstrates how the Baldrige Health Care Criteria can help drive improvements in rural America is the Arroyo Fresco Case Study, which depicts a fictitious community health center that has as its mission to provide high-quality health care responsive to its community's diverse cultural and socioeconomic needs, regardless of people's ability to pay.
NMMC's success proves that rural Americans can have the same access to quality health care as their urban counterparts, and the Baldrige Health Care Criteria can help!