I am an avid sports junkie. I literally wake up and fall asleep watching SportsCenter. Last month, while watching the NBA Finals (Go Spurs!), I concluded that sports and healthcare have a lot in common. Sport, is a “physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively1.” If we simply swap out the words physical activity for medical practice(s) in the aforementioned definition, we would be describing today’s healthcare organization, no?
For me, the parallel of the two industries really lies in their competitive nature-seeking to be the best. The whole premise of sports is to encourage competition, to be the world’s best player, team, or country. Similarly, the healthcare industry encourages competition by seeking the best physician, practice, health system, equipment, outcomes, cost and efficiencies. However, you cannot be the best unless you know what “best” means. What is the threshold you are comparing yourself to in order to be called the best? What are the weaknesses that are holding you back from being the best? What is the benchmark for best?
In sports it is a little easier to identify. For example, after six titles, five Most Valuable Player awards and 10 scoring titles, Michael Jordan is considered to be the best player of all time. He is the benchmark of greatness in the sport of basketball-he is what all other players aspire to be and what they evaluate themselves against. Unfortunately, in healthcare it is not as easy, as these types of statistics are not as readily available. However, in recent years, in an effort to help define and understand “best”, more and more healthcare organizations are finding value in benchmarking as a tool to assess their current thresholds and a way to improve their process and overall performance in an attempt to be the best.
In this blog post, you will be provided a general overview of benchmarking. In the next blog post we will take a closer look at the actual process of benchmarking.
What is Benchmarking?
Benchmarking has become a dynamic performance tool in the healthcare industry whose main goal is to improve performance. American Society of Quality (ASQ) defines benchmarking as “a technique in which a company measures its performance against that of best in class companies, determines how those companies achieved their performance levels and uses the information to improve its own performance2. By identifying the finest performers in the industry, healthcare organizations can determine the areas in which their own operations may be lacking and help them determine their best practices-techniques that will deliver optimum performance and results3.
Types of Benchmarking – Advantages and Disadvantages
There are generally four different types of benchmarking. Depending on your organization’s goal(s), each will provide a specific output. Below is a table of the different types of benchmarks highlighting their advantages and disadvantages and a healthcare example to help put things in perspective.
Consortium Number of Members Premier Financial Services Members Leader(s) Start Date Focus/Goal R3CEV 84 DTCC, American Express, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, TD Bank, BBVA, Bank of New York Mellon, Northern Trust, HSBC, Barclays R3, CEV 2014 General-purpose platform and technology to design and deliver advanced distributed ledger technologies to the financial services market. Digital Asset Holdings 15 Deutsche Borse, J.P. Morgan, DTCC, ABN AMRO, Goldman Sachs, Santander, Citi, IBM DAH 2014 Capital markets – post-trade settlement. Building distributed, encrypted straight through processing tools to improve efficiency, security, compliance, and settlement speed. Hyperledger Project 142 J.P. Morgan, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, UBS, BBVA, Bank of New York Mellon Linux Foundation, IBM, Cisco, Intel, SWIFT, DAH 2015 General purpose blockchain. Open source collaborative effort based on IBM’s Fabric codebase, which was created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration that includes leaders in finance, banking, the internet of things (IoT), supply chain, manufacturing, and technology. The Linux Foundation hosts Hyperledger as a Collaborative Project under the foundation. Ethereum 116 J.P. Morgan, Santander, BNY Mellon, BBVA, Bank of New York Mellon Microsoft, Intel 2017 Considering a more distributed approach to self-management rather than the more traditional leadership structure adopted by competing blockchain consortia like R3CEV and Hyperledger. Offers smart contract features that contain a virtual machine, executing peer-to-peer contracts using a cryptocurrency known as Ether. Ripple 75 UBS, Standard Chartered, Santander, CIBC, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), MUFG, Mizuho Google, IDG Capital Partners 2012 Payments. A real-time gross settlement system (RTGS), currency exchange and remittance network by the company of the same name. The Ripple Transaction Protocol (RTXP) or Ripple protocol is built upon a distributed open-source Internet protocol, consensus ledger and native currency called XRP (ripples). Kinakuta 35 Ethereum Foundation Microsoft,
2016 Working group dedicated to improving smart contracts security.
Benefits of Benchmarking
If properly executed, benchmarking offers healthcare organizations many benefits. The Joint Commission Resources (JCR) highlights some of the potential benefits of benchmarking5:
- Improving the quality of patient care
- Yielding greater efficiency
- Encouraging accountability among providers
- Helping obtain a clearer understanding of competitors
- Serving as a source for new ideas
- Enhancing marketing opportunities
- Improving productivity
- Understanding what levels of performance are possible and how much improvement can be achieved
- Meeting accreditation requirements
- Highlighting the strengths of a department or unit to leadership
- Helping to build the business case for more resources
- Justifying the continuation of a service
- Identifying opportunities for improvement
- Verifying that improvement initiatives are working or conversely, need to be modified or abandoned
Healthcare benchmarking can provide tremendous value to an organization. It can identify gaps, improve performance and bring about a positive return overall…if properly executed. We will tackle the importance and necessary steps in implementing an effective benchmarking effort/project in the next post. Stay tuned, the “best” is yet to come.
Do you think benchmarking is a meaningful tool to improve outcomes? Does your organization use benchmarking?
Want to learn more about benchmarking? Read part two of this post here.
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