The Need for Establishing Benchmarks for Healthcare Operational Processes

Utilizing benchmarking as a tool to improve processes has been widely used across many industries. Benchmarking determines areas in which an organization can get better and helps to set desired targets for process improvement. During benchmarking, an organization collects data related to its own processes and compares it against industry standards.

Usually, it is not complicated to benchmark data associated with an organization’s financial performance – there are established accounting regulations that define what type of data needs to be collected and how it needs to be reported, as well as regulatory oversight in the form of financial audits that allows for data integrity and accuracy.

However, when it comes to operational efficiency, the situation can be quite disappointing. There aren’t many industry standards, especially when it comes to healthcare. The main difficulty cited by my healthcare colleagues is there are so many variables in the process of taking care of patients that it’s quite challenging to perform an “apples-to-apples” comparison.

For example, when you want to perform benchmarking of medical equipment utilization, you immediately run into the issue of defining what asset utilization is. Do you measure equipment utilization as a percentage of time the asset is being used actively providing patient care (e.g. IV pump pumping the medications, fluids, etc.)? …or maybe it should be measured as the percentage of time the equipment is in the patient room – regardless if it’s in use or not – as it is ready for delivering care and simultaneously not available to other patients.

And how about benchmarking patient’s wait time in a clinic? Would you count time that patient spends in the waiting area of a clinic? … or would you also count the time a patient spends in the exam room waiting for a provider?

As you can see from these two simple examples, it would be hard to leverage industry benchmarking if there are no industry standards established in this area.

We need to recognize that although we will not be able to easily benchmark operational efficiencies across the healthcare industry, we can start by creating benchmarks for our own organization or healthcare system. Benchmarking will help us identify opportunities to improve processes and, more importantly, provide a strategic focus for our organization.

We see a growing trend among healthcare systems running their operations in a more data-driven manner, where each decision about resourcing and purchasing has a justification supported by data.

As technology practitioners, we see the tremendous value that real-time technologies can bring to healthcare organizations. The data generated through the use of location tags placed on medical assets or location badges given to patients and staff can provide us with an unbiased, automatic, and continuous stream of data.

This data provides a systematic and objective method of assessing your operational performance, defining your Key Performance Indicators (KPI), and establishing best practices which could be applied across your organization – and it is very satisfying to see our healthcare clients leveraging real-time data to do just that.

Joanna Wyganowska, VP of Marketing | Infinite Leap

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