Advantages & Disadvantages of Benchmarking - …

In the United Kingdom, Essence of Care is an approach to healthcare services, launched in 2001, that aims to improve the quality of the fundamental components of nursing care. It uses clinical best practice evidence to structure a patient-centred approach to care and to inform clinical governance, a generic term designating the managerial policy of making care teams directly responsible for improving clinical performance. Benchmarking, as described in Essence of Care, helps practitioners adopt a structured approach to sharing and comparing practices so that they can identify best practices and develop action plans (NHS 2003, 2006, 2007; Nursing Times 2007). Several publications dealt with this strategy and its application in various sectors of care. Butler's (2008) article analyzed the political, professional, social and economic factors that contributed to the development of this approach, focusing particularly on benchmarks related to treating bedsores. It will be interesting to follow the European Union's (EU) initiative, which used a structured, seven-step benchmarking process as a new tool to evaluate national communicable disease surveillance systems in six member states in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses. The objective was to make recommendations to decision-makers for improving the quality of these systems (Reintjes et al. 2006).

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Benchmarking in healthcare essay ..

In 1992, for the first time, G.J. Balm defined benchmarking as a CQI approach. Extending beyond the simple collection of information and comparisons with competitors, it became based on an exchange that allowed organizations to understand how best performances were achieved so that they could adapt the best ideas to their own practices. This expanded benchmarking approach involved, on the one hand, standardizing all key processes, and on the other, measuring one's organization not only against direct competitors, but also against non-competitor businesses recognized as being "best in class" (BIC). Finally, it also involved focusing on comparative measures that are of interest to the organization's users (Balm 1992; Pitarelli and Monnier 2000).

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Thus, from its beginnings as a quantitative approach, benchmarking has evolved towards a qualitative approach. Initially, competitive benchmarking measured an organization's performance against the competition. Then comparative benchmarking focused on comparing similar functions in different organizations, the advantage of this approach being that it moderated the competitive aspect and provided opportunities for learning. Collaborative benchmarking involves sharing knowledge about a particular activity with the goal of improving the field being studied. Clinical practice benchmarking involves structured comparisons of processes and the sharing of best practices in clinical care; it is based on quality assessment and is integrated within a CQI approach. Finally, Essence of Care is a sophisticated approach to clinical practice benchmarking aimed at becoming an integral and effective component of healthcare services standardization to support CQI in services and increase patient satisfaction (Ellis 2006; Kay 2007). The various experiences of benchmarking applications in the healthcare sector described later in this article reflect the diversity of benchmarking practices.

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In the first phase of the search we identified literature on mechanisms for comparative evaluation or standardization of performance, better known as benchmarking, in different sectors of activity (education, employment, environment, finances, social protection, research and healthcare) and at all levels of public action (international, European, national, regional, local). The Canadian translations of and French translations of appeared to be neither explicit nor discriminating enough and are therefore not used in this paper.

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In a second phase, we targeted our search on healthcare benchmarking in the Medline, Science Direct and Scopus bibliographic databases, as well as by using the Google Scholar specialized search engine. This in-depth search targeted articles that identified benchmarking as a structured quality improvement method in healthcare and articles in which benchmarking was used as an approach for analyzing and improving healthcare processes.

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This paper will also provide the advantages and disadvantages of quantitative, qualitative and mixed method research and the associated approaches discussed below.