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Why Benchmarking Analytics Have Always Been “The New Black” in Healthcare

Like fashion, healthcare is always changing.

Today, new market realities are forcing healthcare organizations to evolve with the trends. But one thing that hasn’t changed is what’s behind effective decisions during a transformation initiative. And that’s having the right data and analytics to keep up.

Using data benchmarks to support strategic healthcare decisions will never go out of style

At any given time, health system leaders, administrators, clinicians and staff need to understand how their finances, operations and quality outcomes compare on a national scale, as well as with others within and peers outside of their organization. It’s the only way to know where to focus, what goals need to be defined and shared, when progress is being made, and how changes are impacting their strategic objectives.

Now more than ever, healthcare organizations must be smart about the tools and data they use to measure performance. Results from a research study are only significant if they incorporate a certain amount of data to measure results. In the same way, access to a robust, national data set is essential to performance measurement.

Effective business intelligence analytics also have benchmarking capabilities that reveal performance gaps on an internal facility and department level, and across a local, like-peer and national scale. This is critical to draw a line in the sand and aim to zero in on variation at every level, including for:

  • Overall costs and quality outcomes
  • Purchasing and sourcing patterns
  • Workflow and operations
  • Individual clinician and administrative performance
  • Unnecessary or duplicative services
  • Real-time, retrospective and interventional research purposes

With this information powering effective decisions, leaders can scientifically lay the groundwork and prioritize targeted performance improvement, care redesign and operational transformation efforts; ensure alignment and participation in change initiatives; understand strengths and weaknesses; define competitive advantages in their local markets; and create opportunities to drive future growth and reduce spending.

What’s trending with benchmarks in healthcare today

With an alliance of approximately 4,000 of the hospitals in the U.S., and a clinical database representing 45 percent of the nation’s hospital discharges, hundreds of Premier® members have been able to benchmark variation out of daily practice, earn reimbursement, achieve cost savings and position themselves as a choice provider in their markets.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the multiple ways benchmarking analytics are being used.

At the service-line level

In a 2017 analysis of 786 hospitals, Premier found significant variation in the intensive care unit (ICU) with an opportunity to reduce days in the ICU by nearly 200,000 annually among those hospitals. Variation in ICU length-of-stay was mostly linked to sepsis or cardiac procedures. However, patients treated at top-performing hospitals spent 24 percent less time in the ICU. These benchmarks provide insight into areas that can be enhanced when focusing on specific patient populations or leveraging best practices around patient inflow and workflow in this critical care setting.

At the pricing level

While clinical outcomes data tell us healthcare providers are enhancing the quality of care for total joint replacements, data benchmarks tell us a different story when it comes to the pricing of high-value implants used during these surgeries. Widespread variation in medical device prices represents a major opportunity to reduce unnecessary costs for many hospitals. In a 2018 Premier analysis of 350 hospitals, Premier identified a savings opportunity of $23.7 million for knee implants and $19.1 million for hip implants, if all hospitals within the analysis were able to meet or exceed the top 25th percentile of pricing.

At the diagnosis level

When Premier quality improvement collaborative hospital members benchmarked their data to identify what was driving mortality, they found that sepsis was the number one cause of death in excess of expected compared to top performers. So, they set up specific performance improvement efforts around sepsis using best practices from those top performers and measured their progress against hospitals with the lowest sepsis mortality rates. These targeted interventions helped drive significant improvements, with participating hospitals reducing sepsis mortalities by 18 percent in just six years.

At the usage level

We know that significant improvements in efficiency can be made when evidence-based practices are standardized across care settings. A 2017 Premier analysis of 645 hospitals found that 134 diagnoses accounted for 80 percent of red blood cell use. Hospitals that benchmarked their data to identify variation in blood usage were able to pinpoint unnecessary usage patterns, and optimize care by improving stewardship of evidence-based blood use practices. This contributed to a 20 percent decrease in blood utilization across those diagnoses, while maintaining or improving quality.

At the claims level

Health system and clinician leaders working together on value-based, alternative payment models (APMs) are using claims analytics benchmarking tools to better understand how their pre- and post-acute networks are performing. For example, health systems participating in APMs need to create partnerships with preferred and local post-acute care providers, and guide those providers toward shared goals. With detailed claims analytics, leaders conduct thorough analyses of key data points around spend, quality, satisfaction, safety and utilization variation among similar providers for similar diagnoses. Health system leaders pay attention to red flags that might challenge an effective partnership without significant process improvements.

At the individual level

Health systems with robust clinical, financial and operational analytics can equip clinician leaders and front-line staff with reports that provide differentiated performance benchmarks to continuously track and measure improvement. Premier health system leaders are using benchmarking analytics for regular reports on provider-level performance across patient access, productivity, compensation, revenue cycle, staffing ratios and other service metrics. Sharing this information with clinicians helps to achieve buy-in around alignment and transformation initiatives.

At the research level

Robust benchmarking analytics are essential for objective clinical outcomes analyses through partnerships between health systems, life sciences companies and other stakeholders, creating a unique alliance in shifting how we develop, teach, test and research care delivery practices and real-world interventions for healthcare improvement. With outcomes data from the Premier Healthcare Database, Premier uses benchmarking analytics to support both prospective and interventional research, as well as co-development initiatives, such as its collaboration with Merck to jointly develop and test new solutions to improve vaccination rates, care for patients at risk for osteoporosis, c. diff rates and chronic care delivery.

If it isn’t measured, it won’t change

Management guru Peter Drucker is justifiably famous for the quote: “What gets measured gets managed.” But the reverse is also true. What doesn’t get measured can’t be managed. At least, it can’t be managed very well. And therefore, it can’t drive change. That’s especially true in healthcare, where benchmarking analytics will always be the core component of performance improvement.

Having robust data and analytics with detailed benchmarking capabilities embedded across a healthcare organization’s operating model is essential to ensure evidence-based information is driving strategic financial and operational decisions; engage stakeholders from across the enterprise in the decision-making process; commit the entire organization to higher standards of performance; and align incentives and measurement systems to shared organizational goals.

Now more than ever, healthcare organizations need to make sure every aspect of care is managed to the highest standard. Need help digging into the data? Contact us.

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