Blind Spots Be Gone: Achieving Performance Transparency through Benchmarking

The following is a guest blog post by Raul Valdes-Perez, PhD, co-founder and CEO of OnlyBoth Inc.

As we delve into the New Year, it’s safe to say that value-based care is here to stay. Hospitals nationwide are facing intense pressures to rethink improvement strategies regarding outcomes, quality, and efficiency. Whether spurred by fierce local competition or incentivized by increased reimbursement, performance is the name of the game in 2019. But as expectations to do better mount, how can hospitals gain real perspective on areas that most demand organizational attention for improvement?

Benchmarking primer

Provider performance comparison is done by benchmarking, a method seeking to highlight how each provider is doing, not just compared to itself over time, but compared to other providers locally and nationally.

Traditional benchmarking strategies are typically complex and time-consuming, limited in breadth due to the very real human limitation of time. An individual can only acquire so much information and come up with so many comparative insights based on that information, or dataset. Moreover, a 2016 National Academy of Medicine article Fostering Transparency in Outcomes, Quality, Safety, and Costs pointed out that “Research has demonstrated that many of the current public reports make it cognitively burdensome for the audience to understand the data.” As performance transparency becomes a necessity, automated benchmarking fills the gap by incorporating a much larger realm of comparisons and perspectives, revealing insights on previously “undiscovered” but relevant and useful data.

Armed with comprehensive insights on how a hospital is doing compared to others like it, hospital administration can take action to improve outcomes and increase value overall in the market. Automated benchmarking technology can uncover comparative areas of concern or strength based on various private or public datasets, the latter including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Hospital Compare, Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Compare and Long-Term Care Hospital Compare, which are regularly updated. As technology can generate on-the-spot insights—refreshed as often as data is updated—proper allocation of resources for improvement becomes much more apparent.

Saddling up with specifics

Benefits of performance benchmarking are extensive. The insights can be used for the purposes of health system competitive analysis, potential hospital consolidation, and reallocation of staffing or other resources, among other applications. Perhaps most notably, hospital decision-makers need to recognize the value of understanding comparative performance because consumers today have taken a deep interest in transparency. As patients shoulder more of the cost burden for their healthcare, some defer medical care while others go online to compare hospitals on performance, quality, and cost.

If patients are comparing provider performance measures online—with attributes such as star ratings, median time for emergency department actions, surgical complication rates, mortality of specific patient populations, readmission rates, and communications ratings—then shouldn’t the hospitals themselves be aware of this comparative data?

By proactively seeking data about its performance, a hospital can gain critical insights about its standards and make necessary changes. Organizations can also highlight examples of performance excellence in marketing materials or on social media.

Staying current

Automation is reshaping the way benchmarking is utilized in healthcare. With a greater understanding of how each hospital is doing, where it could improve, how it’s changed, and in what areas it’s “best in class,” administrators gain a deeper understanding of performance measurements for transparency.

With new comparative insights, hospital decision-makers can evaluate quality performance and manage operations to achieve success in the value-based care era.

Raul Valdes-Perez, PhD, is co-founder and CEO of OnlyBoth Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa.