“We are unique, so finding a benchmark for us is impossible!” If you’ve heard this once, you probably have heard it a thousand times! Even worse, if you’ve said this once, it was probably one too many times!
In the healthcare industry, the concept of individualized patient care is natural. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do diagnostic tests and compare the results to what is considered “normal” ranges for similar patients? Healthcare providers benchmark patient care all of the time – yet still create an individualized care plan for each patient’s specific needs. Why would we approach the health of the practice any differently?
It isn’t uncommon that we encounter a client program where benchmark data truly doesn’t exist. In these cases we don’t stop trying to help the client improve. After all, we know what “better” looks like without a benchmark. So, driving improvements in the absence of benchmark data, starts with an assessment of the “current state” of the program with common metrics. The next step is to envision what the “future state” will look like, quantified in terms of those metrics and allowing for the gaps to be identified. Then, through rapid cycle improvements targeted at those gaps, we make changes and re-measure to determine impact.
The concept isn’t new. It is the scientific method, the same methodology that drives medical advancements.
We have often seen a practice with performance that benchmarks well ahead of its peers, sustain a false sense of accomplishment, resulting in performance below potential. Conversely, we have seen practices with performance well below benchmark, lose enthusiasm for improvement because they see how far they are behind, how far they have to go. So even when benchmark data is available, measuring impact of change relative to previous performance will never lead you astray in your quest for optimizing your practice’s potential.
Benchmarking with out benchmarks? Sure! You should do it all the time!
In today’s healthcare environment, two things are driving an increase in organizational risks: a reduction in payments and a transition to a value-driven system. The real challenge today is how to best move forward.
Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), provider organizations that assume some financial responsibility for maintaining the health of a population, present an important challenge. The most widely used ACO is Medicare, which has a financial arrangement for sharing risks and rewards.
Recent medical school graduates with large amounts of debt also present a challenge associated with an increase in risk. Many are not willing to accept risk themselves, but are willing to work for an organization that will assume and help mitigate risk.
Undoubtedly, each organization and market poses different opportunities and challenges associated with managing the declining reimbursement and increasing risk paradigm. It’s important, however, to take a step back and envision the desired state of the organization or market in five to ten years, realistically think about the external world’s impact, and confront the facts internally. Some recommended internal steps include:
- Performance improvement
- Lead with quality
- Physician extenders
Watch the three-part video series, “Raising the Bar,” featuring Don Seymour and Dr. William Jessee, to further learn how to thrive in today’s evolving healthcare environment.