By Netsmart

When it comes to data, the goal is not just to have it, but to make it meaningful. Data tells us not just where we are, but more importantly, where we need to go.

One of the best ways to obtain understanding from data is to benchmark. Benchmarking is the act of comparing a performance measure (metric) to a standard. Organizations can benchmark against their own past performance, or against the performance of a set of regional and nationwide peers to evaluate their financial viability, operational efficiency and clinical effectiveness in the marketplace. 

Some specific examples of helpful benchmarking metrics include: evaluating cost per unit of service and cost per client served, inpatient or residential length of stay, outpatient service utilization, clinical productivity, rates of restraint use, hospitalization rate, consumer program completion rates, recovery/wellness rates, and consumer satisfaction.

Higher benchmarking results can be used to highlight the value an organization brings to the individuals it serves. Lower results can be used to prioritize performance improvement efforts.

A few simple ways to start calculating performance metrics (see “Giving Meaning to Measurement”):

Evaluating Clinical Effectiveness: Assessment data is critical to determining the strengths and treatment needs of an individual. Dr. Stephen Shechtman, lead psychologist at Caron Treatment Center, asks prospective consumers a series of questions as part of a standard assessment and uses the responses to determine whether the individual should be admitted to a program at Caron or whether another option should be recommended. By analyzing this data over time, Shechtman says the center is able refine this process to make better decisions about the best care necessary to promote the wellness of the individual.

DataImproving Consumer Satisfaction: Healthcare organizations have to be aware that people will choose the places that treat them well (as people and not just for their treatment needs). At Manatee Glens, Dr. Robert Boxley, director of clinical training and supervising psychologist, says the Florida-based organization systematically tracks consumer satisfaction through surveys and then regularly reviews those benchmarks to determine where they excel and how they could do things better.

Ensuring Staff Retention: Many healthcare organizations suffer from a “skill supply chain” challenge, meaning there are not enough qualified employees to fill much-needed roles. At Rosecrance, regular organizational climate (employee satisfaction) benchmarking surveys address the way staff feel working at Rosecrance, as well as areas staff feel they could use additional support. The results drive the culture, and are also benchmarked against previous years’ results and those of other similar organizations to help retain staff and provide resources to assist them in being more effective.

Giving meaning to measurement is an important facet of high-quality healthcare. Harnessing data in a manner that adds knowledge and provides insight will serve to improve organizational performance and enhance lives.