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How Healthcare Providers Can Use Benchmarking to Improve Performance

Benchmarks are standards that organizations can use to evaluate performance levels. Typically, they’re developed by comparing different businesses within an industry or looking at the same organization over a specific period and measuring concrete, quantifiable metrics.

Companies may wonder which targets are the most important, but it ultimately depends on an organization’s objective. In the healthcare industry, this can make things complicated since each provider likely has different goals in mind. If the goal is to boost productivity, for example, the metrics an organization measures will look very different than if the goal is improving patient satisfaction.

How are benchmarks used in the evaluation of healthcare quality? By pinpointing an objective and measuring the right metrics, providers can use benchmarking to see how they rank in the marketplace. This shows them where improvements need to be made to effectively compete. But for benchmarking to be effective in the healthcare industry, providers must know which metrics to pay attention to and how they relate to specific goals.

Exploring Metrics for Benchmarking in Healthcare

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In the healthcare industry, data is the cornerstone of successful outcomes. Data that can be easily accessed and visualized empowers hospitals and other healthcare organizations to perform better, increase revenue, and improve patient care. The more transparency there is around this data, the easier it is for organizations to sort and analyze it.

By taking industry metrics and using them for benchmarking, healthcare organizations can see whether they’re accomplishing what they set out to do. More importantly, benchmarks can light the path forward for providers on how to do their jobs better. For benchmarking data in healthcare to be effective, however, it’s important to pay attention to the right metrics.

Here are three metrics leaders should focus on for their healthcare benchmarks:

1. Productivity metrics

Productivity metrics are traditionally focused on bottom-line numbers, specifically money and time. On a broad level, this means tracking costs and the speed at which services are delivered. In healthcare, these metrics break down in a few ways.

On the financial side, these numbers cover important elements such as labor and supply costs as well as other expenses, such as how much is spent on utilities and overtime pay. When it comes to time, productivity metrics track things like how long it takes to properly care for patients, how much time physicians spend with patients, and how many patients are treated daily.

Additionally, organizations across all industries are searching for solutions to measure and manage productivity for their remote team members. Even physicians and clinicians are spending more time working remotely due to the rise of telehealth. Utilizing data insights can provide organizations with the information to make more informed decisions on staffing, workload prioritization, and team structure that can lead to efficiencies.

Time management is essential for running a business smoothly and efficiently. However, it’s important to remember that relying on these metrics alone isn’t enough. By focusing only on raw numbers, other important factors — such as patient satisfaction and patient outcomes — could be left out of the equation. This can ultimately decrease the very productivity the metrics are meant to help improve.

2. Top-line and bottom-line metrics

Reimbursement (aka top-line) and cost (aka bottom-line) metrics can be used to determine the right strategies for optimizing revenue and communicating with patients. These metrics include:

• Expected payments from insurers and patients

• Changes in revenue in a given time period

• Reimbursements by carrier, region, medical specialty, or procedure
• Actual versus expected payments
• Patient and guarantor statistics

Costs and reimbursement rates can vary widely, depending on the healthcare specialty and even the region. Full reimbursement, while ideal, is not realistic to measure success against. Using an average percentage from a comparable area or specialty, however, can provide a valuable benchmark for an organization to follow.

3. Patient satisfaction

This metric can be overlooked or undervalued, especially in large hospitals and healthcare systems. In the past, a successful treatment seemed like a good enough goal for many providers. After all, a hospital visit wasn’t a day spa or cruise ship; customer satisfaction wasn’t a top concern in day-to-day operations. Today, patient satisfaction absolutely should be a priority. Patients are consumers, and they do make their own choices when it comes to selecting providers.

Patient satisfaction can have a serious impact on a healthcare organization’s productivity and finances. Not only will a poor satisfaction rate potentially reduce the number of patients who come through a hospital’s doors, but quality of care is increasingly becoming a factor in reimbursement amounts.

Patient satisfaction is about delivering a pleasant experience in both the clinical and the financial experience. Its focus is on whether patients feel their needs were met before, during, and after the medical encounter, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Its purpose is to pinpoint what a physician, provider organization, or revenue cycle partner does well and what it needs to improve regarding patient satisfaction.

Industry benchmarking is a highly valuable tool for healthcare providers that want to perform better and meet their goals. By measuring the right metrics, providers can use targeting to propel their organizations toward a brighter future.

Joey Cavanaugh, RN, is the chief operations officer at Zotec Partners. With 30+ years of healthcare experience, she’s committed to all aspects of operational excellence for the company and its clients, including radiology, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and multispecialty billing. Joey graduated from Elmhurst College with a science specialty nursing degree.

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