Benchmarking is a largely new concept in the healthcare industry. Benchmarking is also a tool of management that can be used to accomplish several goals. There is no standard definition for benchmarking but the concept underlines “the process of collecting and analyzing data to identify trends in performance, and when compared with other processes identifies the interventions that are needed to fix certain problems” (Youngberg, 2011, p. 23). Benchmarking can be applied to several aspects of management including risk-management. There are two approaches for using benchmarking to manage risks and they can be external or internal. This paper explores how benchmarking can be applied in identifying risk and its overall ability to minimize risks.
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Experts reckon that benchmarking is a strategy that is made possible by “comparing indicators and it is not perceived in its entirety as a tool based on voluntary and active collaboration among several organizations to create a spirit of competition and to apply best practices” (Youngberg, 2011). Consequently, when benchmarking is used to identify risks its success depends on the willingness of all the participants of the process. On the other hand, benchmarking is only successful in a certain kind of environment. For example, successful benchmarking depends on essential readiness throughout the process, the participants’ ability to monitor the process, inter-organizational collaboration, and overall involvement of the staff members.
There are various methods that can be used to identify risks in the healthcare industry but benchmarking has certain features that make it stand out from the rest. First, benchmarking can assume an internal or an external approach. Internal benchmarking often involves risk managers collecting data from their own organizations. On the other hand, external benchmarking involves risk managers using and collecting data from other entities within the healthcare industry. Both internal and external benchmarking approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, internal benchmarking is effective because it can reduce risks within the organization without exposing the organization’s shortcomings to competitors. Nevertheless, there is a risk of misjudging risks when using internal benchmarking because managers lack comparative data sets. External benchmarking is also effective in identifying risks because it utilizes industry standards and opens healthcare organizations to positive critique. However, the main disadvantage when using external benchmarking is that too much sharing of information exposes it to third parties thereby exacerbating risk factors.
Various stakeholders have questioned whether benchmarking can actually reduce risks within the healthcare industry. When exploring the issue of the effectiveness of benchmarking, it is important to understand what aspects can be ‘benchmarked’ by risk managers. It is important to note that benchmarking involves various sets of information but not all of it is relevant to active risk management. When seeking to manage the risk of claims within an organization, various sets of data are collected, but only few of them are directly linked to risk management. For instance, information about bed occupancy can be used during benchmarking but it does not directly reduce the risk of claims in a hospital. Consequently, benchmarking has the capacity to reduce risks only when risk managers have the ability to utilize the information that they have. Experts suggest that benchmarking can reduce risks if the process of analysis is prepared carefully. During this process of analysis, risk managers are expected to “determine the products that are important to the organization, decide on whom they can compare their organizations against, and which data is pertinent to their operations” (Sexton & Thomas, 2006, p.44).
Sexton, J., & Thomas, E. (2006). The Safety Attitudes Questionnaire: psychometric properties, benchmarking data, and emerging research. BMC health services research, 6(1), 44-45.
Youngberg, B.J. (2011). Principles of risk management and patient safety. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.