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August 14, 2014

Why Benchmarks are So Important to Managers

Benchmarking to Improve Productivity

Hospital managers are often tasked with evaluating how efficient and effective their staff are in doing their jobs. Productivity must be assessed to be certain that the highest quality of care is delivered efficiently and uniformly to all patients, contributing to best patient outcomes possible.

When looking to assess staff productivity and effectiveness, benchmarking is one of the most important assessment tools in your management toolkit. Benchmarking is important to managers because it offers a way to analyze the performance levels of your staff so that you can identify performance issues. In the health care delivery business, poor performance can lead to an inconsistent quality of care, potentially poor patient health outcomes and increased lengths of stay at hospitals, all of which drive up costs.

Benchmarking can identify the root causes of a productivity problem. And, identifying and correcting the issue will lead to superior performance on the part of employees, be they on the nursing staff or in the imaging or emergency departments.

Below find tips and information regarding the significance of benchmarking to managers, how the practice ultimately helps them, their staff, and their patients, and steps they must take to ensure successful use. And, while they are independent metrics, it is important to review both productivity benchmarks (which affect financial outcomes) and performance outcomes (which pertain to quality of care).


Tailor Different Benchmarking Approaches to Your Needs

Benchmarking generates comparative data, which is valuable to hospitals aiming to master the best patient outcomes. You may consider two approaches:

  • Use internal benchmarking to analyze key work functions within the same organization and make comparisons accordingly.
  • Identify best practices within your department, and compare them with others throughout the facility. Evaluate existing practices over time.

Sometimes, though, it will be necessary to see how your staff is performing in comparison to other hospitals—your competitors. External or competitive benchmarking compares your staff's practices, including quality and safety issues, with those competitors and leaders in the healthcare industry. Managers can judge their organization's performance based on the achievements of other organizations. You can assess the types of improvements that were successful and effective elsewhere, and harness them for your department.


Develop a Pre-Benchmarking Strategy and Follow Through

First, to be thorough, managers must have an overall strategy for benchmarking:

  • Get the support of stakeholders;
  • Focus on a specific service or task to benchmark;
  • Determine the important performance metrics;
  • Determine method of collecting performance data;
  • Gather accurate data that can be measured against various standards, both internally and externally from other organizations;
  • Analyze the data and identify improvement opportunities;
  • Inform stakeholders of the results and your proposals for improvement;
  • Communicate results with employees and garner their support, making clear the reasons for needed changes;
  • Adapt and implement the best practices, setting reasonable goals.

Rather than managing staff based on your gut feelings, benchmarking forces you to manage people based on an assessment of their productivity, efficiency, and other factors.

For instance, you might ask certain questions concerning the following:

  • Quality of care:
    • Is the staff appropriately qualified? Do they have the appropriate educational degree or training needed to carry out specific duties?
    • Is the staff people-focused, and does it communicate well?
  • Efficiency of care:
  • Did a patient receive his medication on time, or was a patient prepped in a timely manner for imaging tests or surgery?
  • Skill mix:
    • Do you have the appropriate distribution of staff positions or expertise types?


Benchmarking Outcomes

When examining staff performance, several areas for benchmarking come to mind, including assessment of:

  • Length of patient stay for specific conditions;
  • Patient flow and management of transfers to other departments;
  • Medication administration error rates;
  • Hospital acquired infection rates;
  • Patient/family satisfaction with staff.

To make the best assessment, you could use several benchmarking techniques, such as performance analyses that report specific strengths and weaknesses of personnel. The analyses can be developed through conversations or documentation with other staff within a department, or with staff from other departments. Documentation of patient handoffs to other departments also could be reviewed. Patient surveys that indicate levels of patient satisfaction also are an effective way to gauge job performance.

Look at benchmarking as a systematic approach to achieving the highest standards and quality of care that are crucial to creating the best patient experience possible. If there are shortcomings, the answers found through benchmarking will guide you on how to optimize productivity and increase the efficiency of current staff.


Need Assistance Setting and/or Achieving Benchmarks?

Soyring Consulting employs operational and financial experts, as well as data analysts, who can assess, recommend, and implement vital changes to improve the performance of your department, facility, or system.

Learn more about productivity consultations here »


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