Definition and Purpose of Healthcare Benchmarking
Healthcare benchmarking is taking a given organization’s performance metrics and comparing those to a standard developed using data from other similar organizations. The practice has been around in healthcare since roughly 1985. Leaders use benchmarking to learn where an organization is performing well against its peers, and where it needs improvement. Usually this information is used for identifying opportunities for improvement initiatives and marketing purposes (rankings, etc.).
No leader wakes up and says, “We must have healthcare benchmarking!” But they do say, “I need to figure out where to focus our improvement efforts.” In a 2018 survey conducted by Health Catalyst, 72 percent of executives said to identify and prioritize improvement opportunities, benchmarks are important or extremely important. Additionally, 22 percent said that an organization’s performance against benchmarks is the most influential factor for determining which improvement initiatives to launch, after regulatory/reporting requirements (25 percent) and improvement team priorities (24 percent). Figure 1 gives more data from the survey.
How Healthcare Benchmarking Is Usually Performed
Historically the healthcare benchmarking industry has been dominated by a few vendors focusing on very specific domains such as inpatient, quality, ranking/comparing physicians, operational, and claims-based benchmarking. Usually these solutions are inpatient focused and use cohorts of patients that may—or may not—be truly comparable to a given organization’s population of patients (for example, the organization has patients that are younger and have fewer comorbidities than the comparison data set).
Often an organization will have to send data to a benchmarking company then wait for delivery of the results. Once the organization has the benchmark information, it will have to rely on in-house skillsets to look at multiple benchmarks and identify improvement opportunities, while combining that information with a knowledge base. It can be a heavy burden to get to the improvement initiative stage.
The Problems with this Approach
Current benchmarking tools are built on antiquated technologies and are primarily focused on performance monitoring rather than recommending and driving sustained improvements. Unable to drill into data to reveal the cause of benchmark failures, current tools cannot tell organizations how to make improvements. Their high-cost, rudimentary user interfaces and limited use by a small number of people hampers their ability to democratize data and accelerate improvements. Current benchmarking tools provide either inpatient or ambulatory benchmarks, but rarely both. As a result, it is difficult to monitor performance across the continuum of care, making population health management less effective.
How to Solve these Problems with Next-Generation Benchmarking
The Health Catalyst® Touchstone™ analytics application is the next generation in benchmarking, opportunity analysis, and prioritization. It turns average users into world-class data analysts. Touchstone focuses on the full continuum of care—and surfaces machine learning-powered recommendations in an intelligent user interface.