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Benchmarking in Healthcare: Definition, Types & Benefits

Instructor: Karen West

Karen has taught software utilization for MSN students in a virtual learning environment. Karen has a Master of Science Degree in nursing.

Benchmarking is a business concept that was imported into healthcare as the industry began to look at quality and safety and how it could be applied to facilitate change. In this lesson, you'll learn about benchmarking types and benefits.

Benchmarking Definition

Benchmarking is a term used to describe a rule or guideline by which others can be measured or judged. It's used as a point of reference from which an evaluation can be made. The business industry adopted benchmarking as early as the 1930s.

The healthcare industry has also used benchmarking over the years to improve processes and outcomes. For example, in 1994, the VA health system used benchmarking to develop a format for evaluating quality in their surgical patient outcomes. And in 1999, the Institute of Medicine used benchmarking to determine that quality was very variable throughout healthcare (hospitals, nursing homes, physician offices, and home healthcare agencies) and found errors were happening in all healthcare venues.

Purpose of Benchmarking in Healthcare

The purpose of benchmarking in healthcare is to improve efficiency, quality of care, patient safety and patient satisfaction. The process involves looking at standards, best practices, and evidence-based practices and then identifying potential areas of improvement. Employees may be given individual goals that will assist in achieving an area or organizational goal. When new practices are implemented, management must find a way to measure progress to determine if the new benchmark is being achieved.

Types of Benchmarking in Healthcare

There are two different benchmarking types that are frequently utilized in healthcare:

  • Internal benchmarking
  • Competitive benchmarking

Internal Benchmarking

Internal benchmarking occurs when an organization compares functions within its organization, looking at each area and evaluating how they are meeting the standards and goals that have been set for them. For example, if a hospital wants to improve handwashing and sanitizing practices to prevent infections, they may use internal benchmarking to evaluate current practices in each department and then set goals for 100% hand hygiene compliance throughout the hospital.

Competitive Benchmarking

Competitive benchmarking occurs when an organization analyzes another organization process or similar service and compares that organization's goals or outcomes against their own. For example, a hospital that wants to improve patient satisfaction may compare how long their patients wait in emergency rooms before seeing a doctor to the median amount of time patients wait at competing for hospital emergency rooms before seeing a doctor.

Benefits of Benchmarking

Benchmarking gives voice to quality standards in healthcare. Healthcare organizations that have adopted a benchmarking process have found a way to identify strengths and weakness allowing a plan of action for improvement. Healthcare is made up of multiple stakeholders, and through benchmarking, each one can benefit from quality and safety projects for improvement.

There are specific benefits associated with each type of benchmarking.

Internal Benchmarking Benefits

Internal benchmarking helps healthcare organizations:

  • Plan and implement benchmarking with reliable internal data and existing internal resources
  • Establish and improve process standardization for more consistent results
  • Convince management and certain departments that goals are achievable since they are already being achieved somewhere else within the organization

Competitive Benchmarking Benefits

Competitive benchmarking helps healthcare organizations:

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