Healthcare Benchmarks

I was in a meeting recently and I was asked about benchmark data or best practice data.   In the meeting we were discussing areas in the hospital that had been identified as target areas for initial improvement activities.  We had a candid conversation about benchmarking and want to share some of the context of our discussion with you.

Benchmarking is the process used to compare an organization’s processes and Lean competencies with others in a similar business sector.

There are Three Main Types of Benchmarking:

  • Performance Benchmarking: Makes quantitative comparisons of other hospitals’ input and/or output measures.
  • Process Benchmarking: Evaluates the business procedures that other hospitals use.
  • Strategic Benchmarking: Analyzes the driving strategies behind successful hospitals to “identify possible alternative strategies and ways of improving performance.”
Benchmarking and key performance indicators imply that any successful hospital conforms to a narrow set of standards that are universal and that such benchmarks can be used to compare efficiencies between the hospitals. This is not so.
Problem 1: Benchmarking Aims Low.
Because benchmarking strives only to copy others’ performance levels, it doesn’t reach for the excellent and the extraordinary. Benchmarking can only tell you how to live up to — not how to break ahead of — the pack. And because it regularly fails to go beyond simple quantitative comparisons, benchmarking often leads to an uncreative approach to management strategy that may not even work. Instead of using benchmarking as a source for new ideas, it is often limited to establishing basic cost-cutting measures.
Problem 2: Benchmarking Doesn’t Uncover Root Causes.
Benchmarking usually exposes only the most superficial qualities or strategies of a company or industry. Not to mention the fact that even the most successful hospitals employ a range of good and bad practices. So, without knowing what works, and why it works, you could find yourself on the road to decline.
In summary, sharing of best practices is a good thing, but beware of getting caught up in benchmarking as you may find yourself measuring to “the cream of the crap.”

Ken Lowe, Director for Lean Healthcare and Process Improvement at HPPThis week’s blog was written by Ken Lowe, senior consulting director at HPP.

Ken leads hospitals, clinics, and healthcare related organizations through Lean transformation and specialized consulting.  He has worked with prominent academic medical centers and community hospitals across the United States.  With nearly 40 years experience, he has a proven background to be a change agent, utilizing business metrics to analyze and develop lean strategies that address the voice of the customer.

Ken holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Bethel College.

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