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Qual Saf Health Care. 2007 Oct;16(5):334-41.

Using a Malcolm Baldrige framework to understand high-performing clinical microsystems.

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  • 1Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA.


BACKGROUND, OBJECTIVES AND METHOD: The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) provides a set of criteria for organisational quality assessment and improvement that has been used by thousands of business, healthcare and educational organisations for more than a decade. The criteria can be used as a tool for self-evaluation, and are widely recognised as a robust framework for design and evaluation of healthcare systems. The clinical microsystem, as an organisational construct, is a systems approach for providing clinical care based on theories from organisational development, leadership and improvement. This study compared the MBNQA criteria for healthcare and the success factors of high-performing clinical microsystems to (1) determine whether microsystem success characteristics cover the same range of issues addressed by the Baldrige criteria and (2) examine whether this comparison might better inform our understanding of either framework.


Both Baldrige criteria and microsystem success characteristics cover a wide range of areas crucial to high performance. Those particularly called out by this analysis are organisational leadership, work systems and service processes from a Baldrige standpoint, and leadership, performance results, process improvement, and information and information technology from the microsystem success characteristics view. Although in many cases the relationship between Baldrige criteria and microsystem success characteristics are obvious, in others the analysis points to ways in which the Baldrige criteria might be better understood and worked with by a microsystem through the design of work systems and a deep understanding of processes. Several tools are available for those who wish to engage in self-assessment based on MBNQA criteria and microsystem characteristics.

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