Improving health care, Part 3: Clinical benchmarking for best patient care

Jt Comm J Qual Improv. 1996 Sep;22(9):599-616. doi: 10.1016/s1070-3241(16)30268-1.


Background: Benchmarking, which shows that a much better way of doing something may be possible, stimulates local interest in changing and in making changes previously thought not possible.

A planning worksheet: The Worksheet has five basic steps: Identify measures, determine resources needed to find the "best of the best," design a data collection method and gather data, measure the best against own performance to determine gap, and identify the best practices producing best-in-class results. CASE EXAMPLE--BOWEL SURGERY: The Accelerating Clinical Improvement Bowel Surgery Team at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (Lebanon, NH) was formed in November 1994 to improve the care of patients with diagnosis-related group (DRG) 148 or 149. Consulting two large, administrative databases and the medical literature, the team found that a substantial gap existed between the bowel surgery delivery process and the best results, as far as they were known, among comparable organizations. After flowcharting the delivery process, the team identified the high-leverage steps: same-day services, general surgery clinic, and routine care. The team then planned three successive PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycles: utilization of same-day services for all elective surgery patients, establishment of a standardized preoperative bowel preparation, and utilization of pre- and postoperative routine care orders. These improvement cycles resulted in a reduction in length of stay from 9.66 to 8.29 days. Implementation of a critical pathway resulted in a further reduction to 5.04 days.

Conclusion: Benchmarking can play an integral role in clinical improvement work and can stimulate wise clinical changes and promote measured improvements in quality and value.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / standards
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Forms and Records Control
  • Humans
  • Institutional Management Teams
  • Intestines / surgery
  • Length of Stay
  • Models, Organizational
  • New Hampshire
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Development / methods*
  • Total Quality Management / methods*