The AHA Quest for Quality Prize is back, and its sponsors say the new application and prize criteria are better calibrated to the transformation taking place in America’s health care. Oct. 1 (midnight Central Time to be precise) is the deadline for hospitals and health systems to apply for the 2018 prize.

The AHA last year put the prize on hold for a year while the association and members of its Quest for Quality Prize Committee reviewed and refreshed the prize criteria. They wanted to be sure that the criteria reflected emerging priorities and practices essential to advancing the delivery of high-quality patient-centered care. 

Much has changed in health care since the AHA first awarded the annual prize in 2002 to honor leadership and innovation in quality improvement and safety in patient care. But improving health care and health status has remained a touchstone for the field, the AHA notes.

The Quest for Quality Prize evolved from a narrower focus on building a hospital’s culture of safety to focusing on the Institute of Medicine’s six quality aims – safety, effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness, patient-centeredness and equity – as a framework for improving the experience of care, improving population health and lowering per capita costs in their communities.

With the 2018 prize, the AHA has set the stage for the next leap forward in quality.

The prize now encourages AHA members to expand upon past concepts and definitions of quality and safety, and to promote “new thinking, innovation and creativity about the populations we serve,” says Quest for Quality Prize Committee Chairman Thomas Burke, M.D., a University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center professor of gynecological oncology and reproductive medicine. Burke is M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s former executive vice president and physician-in-chief, and is a former AHA board member.

The prize criteria are aligned with the AHA’s message of “Advancing Health in America,” and its commitment to building a future health care system that ensures coverage for all; delivers high-value care; coordinates care propelled by technology, innovation and data; expands community wellness and prevention programs; and engages patients and their families as partners in managing care.

The 2018 prize application offers “an overarching framework that reflects the current thinking about providing the best possible health,” Burke says. “There is a lot more thinking around diversity, around mental health, around issues that were not included in your basic set of quality programs and training” when hospitals first began to ramp up efforts to develop a systems-based approach towards improving care, he says. “We want to identify those organizations that are moving on to the next echelon.”

Burke says the AHA has helped lay the foundation for accelerating the journey to excellence through initiatives that emphasize “board development and board engagement as real partners; strong integration between administrative leadership and clinical delivery components; and outreach to community organizations to address socio-economic issues. I would like to see those themes filtered through the prize criteria and the awardees.”       

In a significant development, health systems for the first time are eligible to apply for the prize. “Systems often cover regions rather than communities,” says Burke. “They often have a more strategic focus and offer a broader set of services. We wanted to highlight some exemplary opportunities in that broader frame.”  

A hospital that belongs to a system can still apply as an individual hospital for the award.

The 2018 Quest for Quality Prize is sponsored by RL Solutions, a designer of health care quality and safety software.

“When the Quest for Quality opportunity came along, we saw it as a way to strengthen our partnership with the AHA and show our commitment to helping our clients achieve their quality and patient safety goals,” says Sanjay Malaviya, RL Solutions’ president and CEO, and a member of the Quest for Quality Prize Committee.

He says consistently high-performing hospitals and health systems share common traits, such as the ability to foster a culture of individual accountability and commitment, and to use technology in ways that “make health care safer, more efficient and provide a great patient experience.”

“It’s a great privilege to serve on the prize committee,” Malaviya says. “I look forward to meeting the best in the field and learning more about their initiatives to improve quality.”   

Burke notes that the Quest for Quality Prize has traditionally provided models and inspiration for the entire field. “We want the prize to be a soapbox for advancing creative and forward thinking ideas that have been well executed” by award recipients and can help other hospitals and health systems raise their quality bar, he says.

Prize honors are one recipient; up to two finalists; and up to four Citation of Merit honorees. No more than five honors will be awarded. Learn more by visiting

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