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Benchmarking is the process by which one entity is compared to a chosen standard, such as:

  • Monitoring one hospital's 30-day readmission rates in comparison to the same rate statewide
  • Tracking the influenza vaccination rate across three of the organization's outpatient clinics
  • Sharing data among a group of competing nursing homes (as in a Breakthrough Collaborative or Learning & Action Network) to compare changes in each facility's UTI rate as specific quality improvement initiatives get underway

Develop your own benchmark study

Healthcare organizations can also develop benchmark reports on their own; they are particularly useful when a new process is to be implemented or there is a significant change in the competitive landscape. Components of a successful benchmarking effort include:

Step 1: Planning
To ensure the benchmark report is relevant and actionable, form a cross-functional team and identify a study sponsor. Carefully select the processes to be measured and identify the objective of a benchmark study. Only after these decisions have been made should the discussion begin about which organization(s) the team intends to use as a comparison.

Step 2: Collect information
The team will begin to gather information related to the chosen processes. This may include chart review, customized EHR reports and/or data collection forms, questionnaires, or interviews. Of course, all data regarding other organizations must be collected in a legal and ethical manner.

Step 3: Analyze the data
Ensure that the various data sets are normalized so that true comparisons can be made. Then, identify performance gaps and investigate the cause. Develop an action plan to improve performance where needed.

Step 4: Get buy-in
Communicate the action plan across the organization. It is critical to gain acceptance, support, and commitment to the plan. (Learn more about change management.)

Step 5: Implement the first round of changes
It is often best to start small and test multiple approaches. (Learn how to conduct plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles and download a PDSA worksheet.)

Step 6: Monitor progress
Dramatic changes do not occur overnight, and even after goals are reached, it can be challenging to sustain the improvement. Long-term monitoring can help ensure that any improvements made will have a lasting effect.