Raising the bar for customer service in health care

If you mention the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to most people, you might get a questioning stare. But if you bring it up around highly regarded, top performing businesses that put customer service at the core of their missions, the award is as well known as the Pulitzer Prize. Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987.

The Baldrige Award is the nation’s highest presidential honor for performance excellence, and it has historically been presented jointly by the President of the United States and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

This month, St. David’s HealthCare became one of only four organizations in the U.S. to receive a 2014 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. We are the first-ever health care system in the state of Texas to receive this prominent honor.

The award is a tremendous validation of how St. David’s HealthCare compares to other companies across the country and establishes it as a role model business and health care system. Past recipients of the Baldrige Award include The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, Cadillac Motor Car Company, Federal Express Corporation and The Ritz-Carlton, to name a few.

St. David’s HealthCare’s vision is “to be the finest care and service organization in the world.” Frankly, it is unusual for a health care provider to put service on the same plane as patient care — the two haven’t always gone hand in glove — but at St. David’s HealthCare, we know the difference it makes.

We pride ourselves on offering all of our customers — patients, families, physicians, nurses, staff members, and our community — an unparalleled level of service. We look for quality and service best practices outside of the health care industry, because for us, it’s about measuring ourselves against the highest-performing organizations in the nation and applying what we learn along the way to help us improve.

St. David’s HealthCare embarked on this ambitious journey several years ago with a singular goal in mind — to become the best. But, it was never for the award’s sake. Instead, we knew that adhering to the incredibly rigorous standards for performance for which the Baldrige Award is famous would help us become a better organization, and it would make a significant difference for the patients we care for and serve. This has been an extraordinary journey for us because we have all come together around a unified goal of becoming a better health care system. When we began, no one could have predicted how it would shape and improve our organization.

It seems appropriate to receive word of the Baldrige Award as we begin this season of Thanksgiving. I am personally very thankful for the St. David’s HealthCare team who worked tirelessly to earn this milestone achievement. I’m also extremely grateful for the 8,100 St. David’s HealthCare employees and more than 2,000 medical staff members who make a difference in the lives of our patients, their families and this community. The exceptional care they provide every day saves lives, and the compassion with which they do it enriches lives. And, to all of Central Texas, thank you for the privilege to care for and serve you.

It’s humbling to be recognized as a role model for organizations across the country because we know that with this designation comes tremendous responsibility. Performance improvement never ends. We’ll continue to raise the bar and push ourselves to be the very best — for our employees, our physicians, our community, and most importantly, for our patients.

David Huffstutler, St. David's HealthCare

David Huffstutler is president and chief executive officer of St. David’s HealthCare—a seven-hospital healthcare system in Central Texas.