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benchmark in health care refers to an attribute or achievement that serves as a standard for other providers or institutions to emulate.

Benchmarking current process performance against “best in class,” via site visits and data analysis, facilitates knowledge of cutting edge developments, technologies, and best practices–and assists in establishing priorities and target areas for innovation.

Types of benchmarking include:

  • Internal Best – in your own organization
  • Competitive Best – amongst your competitors
  • Functional Best – best-in-class for this type of process
  • Out-of-Industry – service classic from another industry

Benchmarks differ from other “standard of care” goals, in that they derive from empiric data—specifically, performance or outcomes data. For example, a statewide survey might produce risk-adjusted 30-day rates for death or other major adverse outcomes. After adjusting for relevant clinical factors, the top 10% of hospitals can be identified in terms of particular outcome measures. These institutions would then provide benchmark data on these outcomes. For instance, one might benchmark “door-to-balloon” time at 90 minutes, based on the observation that the top-performing hospitals all had door-to-balloon times in this range. (Reference)

In the present example regarding infection control, benchmarks would typically be derived from national or regional data on the rates of relevant nosocomial infections. The lowest 10% of these rates might be regarded as benchmarks for other institutions to emulate.