Webster’s dictionary says benchmarking is “a standard by which something can be measured or judged.” In a recent post, we mentioned the need to use the right yardstick to measure patient loyalty. Benchmarking is one of the best tools to see how your medical practice stacks up against others in a similar specialty or size.
Blame it on Xerox Corporation – in addition to copiers, they began official benchmarking practices. Now, in addition to corporate America, medical practices, clinics, hospitals, and pretty much any healthcare organization uses benchmarking to compare processes (coding, overhead, staffing ratios, accounts receivable) with others in the same or similar specialty. Using such high performer comparisons helps the medical profession raise the bar for best practices.
Why is it important? Quite simply, benchmarking provides a structured approach to data gathering and analysis. It helps you, in practice/clinic management, to develop the best strategies, and points you in the direction of the best operational decisions, too. Because it quantifies the measures of performance, medical practices are able to truly measure the gap between their own organization and “best practices,” not to mention competitors. Best of all, knowing what you’re up against encourages creative thinking and stimulates innovation.
To benchmark, follow these steps:
- Identify the problem – do you want to lower overhead? Increase collections?
- Determine areas for attention – staffing ratios, 120-day A/R
- Obtain buy-in from decision-makers
- Know how you do things now, so you know what needs to change/improve
- Compare to peer groups
- Gather accurate data
- Communicate the improvement action plan
- Develop dashboard indicators and continuously measure against them!
Start with realistic goals – like reducing patient wait time by 15 minutes or introducing Just-in-Time ordering to reduce overstocked inventory. And benchmark based on factors that relate to cost, quality and timeliness – internal factors. Monitor and re-evaluate at set intervals so Continuous Quality Improvement becomes the culture.
Above all, remember: Benchmarking is not a one-time event but a continuum.
For the complete presentation of “Why Benchmark?” given by Crystal Nolan at the WA-OR MGMA meeting in 2009, visit the Derry, Nolan & Associates website.