Think Nationally and Focus Locally: Unleashing the Power of Benchmarking to Drive Physician Performance Improvement

Benchmarking Physician Performance

Many hospitals invest in national benchmarking to engage physicians in performance improvement, and minimize unwanted or unnecessary deviations in physician practice. However, while the concept of comparing key metrics with similar organizations can be part of the solution, there are some potential problems with this approach that, for some hospitals, is triggering ongoing frustrations instead of driving continuous gains.

Specifically, there are four core challenges with national benchmarking that can limit its application, value and impact: high cost, lack of physician buy-in, failure to apply knowledge, and inability to micro-target KPIs.

  1. High Cost
    The high cost of national benchmarking makes it difficult to justify for some hospitals, and outright prohibitive for others; especially on today’s health care landscape, where organizations of all sizes are under significant — and in some cases unprecedented — pressure to reduce budgets and reign in spending.
  2. Lack of Physician Buy-In
    While they are committed to performance improvement, many physicians nevertheless dismiss national benchmarking as “comparing apples to oranges.” Yes, they want to work smarter and better, but no, they do not buy-into the belief that national benchmarking is the right, best or only way to make that happen.
  3. Failure to Apply Knowledge
    Many hospitals that invest in national benchmarking, fail to apply some or all of the intelligence they glean into their quality improvement program. This is often because they do not have the in-house implementation support and guidance they need to turn abstract insights into practical actions, and ultimately into measurable and sustainable results.
  4. Inability to Micro-Target KPIs
    Even when national benchmarking yields valuable insights — and it certainly can and should — it is virtually assured that not all insights will apply to a specific hospital’s unique and multi-faceted issues, challenges and opportunities; some of which can be rooted in people and politics, and not in systems and technology.

Closing the Gaps

National benchmarking offers proven value, and the observations above do not suggest that this method of measuring performance and setting goals should be off the table. However, to unleash the power of benchmarking and close these gaps, hospitals need to “think nationally but focus locally.”

That is, hospitals can (if affordable) use national benchmarks at a strategic level to determine targets, areas for improvement and strategic initiatives. But they should go deeper by leveraging customized scorecards that:

  • Compare individual physicians to the group median.
  • Capture a wide variety of metrics that are applicable for specific hospitals and individual physicians.
  • Refresh automatically so that data is always up-to-date.
  • Combine with other reports to analyze root causes and examine trends.

Rather than being data-rich but results-poor, hospitals access organization and physician-specific business intelligence support to save time and money — especially if they no longer need to buy a costly single-purpose national benchmarking service — and ensure that the knowledge and best practices they glean integrate with their QI program.

The Bottom Line

Using customized internal scorecards combined is a smart, safe, affordable and proven way for hospitals to augment or replace national benchmarking (if it is not an affordable or desired option), and achieve continuous, measurable and substantial physician performance improvement. After all, as Mark Twain sagely advised: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Next Steps

At Polaris, we create customized internal scorecards that provide decision-makers with clear, actionable business intelligence that supports performance improvement at individual physician, team and organizational levels. Simply put, we enable hospitals to think nationally, but focus locally.

To learn more about our solutions, technologies and approach, contact the Polaris team today.

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