Baldrige for Dentists

Baldrige: The Traffic ‘Copter


Have you ever sat in a traffic jam? What are you thinking? Perhaps looking around to figure out if moving into another lane will help or checking the time to determine if you’re going to be late for your appointment? You can only see a few cars ahead and behind, so you are forced to make decisions with very little information.

Now, put yourself in that same traffic jam – but this time, you’re in the traffic helicopter, looking down at the entire scene. From this view, you can see exactly what you would need to do and what to avoid. Using the Baldrige is like being the traffic ‘copter because it helps you to think strategically and see clearly what you need to do to make your organization successful.

Baldrige for Dentists

The Baldrige criteria – 7 sections of questions on topics such as leadership, strategic planning, patient focus, information measurement, staff focus, process/operations – help you to self-assess your dental practice. As you think about each question, you also are challenged to show your results in real numbers. The combination of asking a series of comprehensive questions plus measuring your performance with real numbers gives you the best view of your organization since the traffic ‘copter!

Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence

Local to Nashville dentists, the TNCPE (Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence) is a fabulous resource to introduce you to the Baldrige criteria. Popular with hospitals from around the state, the TNCPE is the state program for Baldrige and helps organizations of all stripes to use the Baldrige criteria to improve their business. If you’re just learning about the Baldrige, then you can buy a copy of the criteria and get some help for beginners. As you develop your understanding of the process, you may want to apply for the award!

If you decide to apply – you’ll write your answers to the criteria and include your results in a 50 page application. You can choose your level of involvement (level 1 earns you a 1 day site visit, level 2 earns 2 days, etc. ) and pay the fee to have a team of examiners read your application and come onsite to your practice to evaluate your office against the criteria. They will provide you with a feedback report full of strengths and opportunities for improvement – that you can use to develop processes for your practice to provide consistent quality to each patient.

My Experience

I have over 13 years experience with the Baldrige criteria. My group practice in Ohio started applying in 1992 and I helped write the application and I created the results section to show our performance. In 1999, we won the top level in the Quality Dayton program! In 2000, we began applying to the Ohio program and we were recognized several years at Tier 2 for a Commitment to Excellence. I went through Examiners training and evaluated a school in the Dayton area, so I’ve been on both sides of the process.

As a small business manager, I believe Baldrige is the best way to really understand your organization / dental practice in a comprehensive manner. Like golf, the Baldrige criteria are a challenge to beginners and experts alike – your answers and processes become more nuanced and detail-oriented with years of experience. Plus, the focus on results rings true for the businessperson in me – I just do not believe in making emotional, reactive decisions for dental practice management. By measuring not just financial performance, but healthcare outcomes, staff engagement, supplier partnerships, patient engagement, marketplace performance – you learn to measure what you want to improve. It also gives you a wide variety of tools to improve your practice – so many dentists and specialists set a new year goal, “I want to make 10% more money next year!” but they have no idea how this will get done. The Baldrige is all about how.

Get Started

If you’re looking for a way to improve your dental practice and the Baldrige sounds like a fit, give me a call. I’d be happy to give you a kick start! As a dental consultant in the Nashville area, I would love to introduce you to the TNCPE program and help you along the process.

Working with the Baldrige criteria is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.

Feel free to email me.

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
1 Comment
  • Jill,

    Am I glad that I reached your page! I completed my Fall 2013 term where we learned, albeit briefly, about the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. I recently got an opportunity to explore dental practice management, and I was wondering if a dental practice can follow the Baldrige journey.

    Your post piqued my interest. Thanks for sharing this!


    February 12, 2014