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About the Baldrige Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence

The Baldrige Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence empower your organization—no matter its size or the type of health care services you offer—to

  • reach your goals;
  • improve results; and
  • become more competitive by aligning your plans, processes, decisions, people, actions, and results.

The Criteria give you the tools you need to examine all parts of your management system and improve processes and results while keeping the whole organization in mind.

Purchase the Baldrige Health Care Criteria or see a sample (PDF) to learn about how to guide your organization, improve performance, and achieve sustainable results.


The Health Care Criteria focus on results.

The Health Care Criteria focus on your results in the key areas of

  • health care and processes,
  • customers,
  • workforce,
  • leadership and governance, and
  • finance and markets.

This composite of measures ensures that your strategies are balanced—that they do not inappropriately trade off among important stakeholders, objectives, or short- and longer-term goals.

The Health Care Criteria are nonprescriptive and adaptable.

The Health Care Criteria do not prescribe how you should structure your organization:

  • They do not say that your organization should or should not have departments for planning, ethics, quality, or other functions.

  • They do not tell you to manage different units in your organization in the same way.

  • They let you choose the most suitable tools (e.g., Lean, Six Sigma, ISO 9000, a balanced scorecard) for facilitating your improvements.

The Criteria are nonprescriptive for these reasons:

They focus on common needs rather than on common procedures. This focus fosters understanding, communication, sharing, alignment, and integration while supporting innovative and diverse approaches.

They focus on results, not procedures, tools, or organizational structure. The Criteria encourage you to respond with creative, adaptive, and flexible approaches, fostering incremental and major (breakthrough) improvement through innovation.

The tools, techniques, systems, and organizational structure you select usually depend on factors such as

  • your organization’s type and size, relationships, and stage of development and
  • the capabilities and responsibilities of your workforce and supply chain.

These factors differ among organizations, and they are likely to change as your needs and strategies evolve.

The Health Care Criteria address the needs of health care organizations.

The Health Care Criteria stress health care service delivery while recognizing that the missions of health care organizations may differ. The Criteria view your patients as your key customers and recognize that you also have other customers (e.g., patients’ families, referring physicians, insurers, and other third-party payors).

The Health Care Criteria also account for the complex leadership structure in health care organizations. This structure includes both administrative/operational and health care providers. In addition, the Criteria recognize the multiple roles that health care providers, including physicians, may play as staff members, suppliers, and customers.

The Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence, Criteria for Performance Excellence (Business/Nonprofit Criteria), and Education Criteria for Performance Excellence are all built on the same seven-part framework. The framework is adaptable to the requirements of all organizations. Using a common framework for all sectors of the economy fosters cross-sector cooperation and the sharing of best practices. Recognizing that health care organizations may address these requirements differently from organizations in other sectors, the Health Care Criteria translate the language and basic concepts of business and organizational excellence into similarly important concepts in health care excellence.

The Health Care Criteria support a systems perspective to align goals across your organization.

The Health Care Criteria build alignment across your organization by making connections between and reinforcing measures derived from your organization’s processes and strategy. These measures tie directly to patient, other customer, and stakeholder value and to overall performance.

When you use these measures, you channel different activities in consistent directions with less need for detailed procedures, centralized decision making, or overly complex process management.

Measures are therefore both a communication tool and a way to deploy consistent performance requirements. The resulting alignment ensures consistency of purpose across your organization while supporting agility, innovation, and decentralized decision making.

When you use the Criteria, feedback between your processes and your results leads to action-oriented cycles of improvement with four stages:

  1. Designing and selecting effective processes, methods, and measures (approach)

  2. Executing on your approach with consistency (deployment)

  3. Assessing your progress and capturing new knowledge, including seeking opportunities for innovation (learning)

  4. Revising your plans based on assessment findings and organizational performance, harmonizing processes and work-unit operations, and selecting better process and results measures (integration)

The Health Care Criteria support goal-based diagnosis.

The Health Care Criteria items and the scoring guidelines make up a two-part diagnostic (assessment) system.

When you assess your organization with the Criteria, you create a profile of strengths and opportunities for improvement based on your responses to 17 performance-oriented requirements (the Criteria items) on a continuum of process and performance maturity (the scoring guidelines).

In this way, assessing your organization with the Criteria leads to actions that improve performance in all areas. This useful management tool goes beyond most performance reviews and applies to a wide range of strategies, management systems, and types of organizations.

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