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Why Benchmarking Analytics Will Never Go Out of Style


Today, new market realities are forcing healthcare organizations to evolve with the trends. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the intelligence behind effective decision-making during a performance improvement initiative. The key is having the right data and analytics to keep up.

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, across internal departments and with 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 strategic changes are impacting long-term goals.

Several consultancies rely on external data benchmarks to support their work with clients. But many providers also choose to work with an organization that can originate the benchmarks – which can give them an edge.

With an alliance of approximately 4,100 of the hospitals in the U.S., and a clinical database representing 45 percent of the nation’s hospital discharges, hundreds of health systems use Premier’s timely, robust and standardized data as the gold standard in benchmarking and analytics. Premier members have been able to leverage Premier’s business intelligence to benchmark variation out of daily practice, earn reimbursement, achieve cost savings and position themselves as a choice provider in their markets. They can also assess trends in more real-time fashion than if they used purchased or publicly available benchmarks, enabling Premier members to more nimbly respond to market dynamics like COVID-19.

More providers today are prioritizing access to quality benchmarking analytics.

In a recent survey Premier conducted of provider CFOs, one out of three said they’re investing in technology or expertise that enables long-term performance improvement (PI). Providers noted they’re making these changes to enable more cost-effective care delivery in light of COVID-19 – indicating they’re thinking beyond short-term remedies to today’s revenue challenges.

With long-term PI should come access to robust healthcare data analytics and benchmarking. Our experience shows that the most successful PI efforts are underpinned by national data, benchmarking and technology.

This is especially true for providers participating in risk-based models. For example, in bundled payments, quality analytics and benchmarking are critical to identify opportunities and drive strategy development. Members in Premier’s Bundled Payment Collaborative access an intelligence platform that aggregates CMS data into easy-to-understand formats and dashboards. Providers are spared time and resources trying to culminate myriad data sources into one actionable tool – particularly those that participate in one or all bundled payment programs.

Benchmarking analytics certainly aren’t limited to the acute care space. According to estimates, physician office visits tally nearly 900 million each year. Ambulatory providers that leverage a robust database with volume, operational and revenue data across more than 100 specialties are finding significant savings. University of Louisville Physicians, for example, utilized Premier’s expertise, data and benchmarking analytics to increase ambulatory patient visits by 10 percent and achieve $6 million in combined savings and revenue enhancements.

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

Effective business intelligence analytics must have benchmarking capabilities that reveal performance 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, including drug utilization
  • Workflow and operations
  • Individual clinician and administrative performance
  • Unnecessary or duplicative services
  • Real-time, retrospective and interventional research purposes
  • Post-acute care utilization

With this information to power their decision-making, leaders can scientifically target margin improvement, care redesign and operational transformation efforts; ensure alignment and participation in change initiatives; define competitive advantages in their local markets; and reduce expenses.

Of course, no discussion of benchmarking would be complete without acknowledging the need for interpretation and application of the data.

Data-centered conversations with experts can inform an organization’s strategy and help focus its resources on the highest-impact areas. For example, in Premier’s Population Health Management Collaborative, participants of accountable care organizations (ACOs) receive regular reviews of the benchmarking data with Premier experts.

These conversations illuminate insights such as the individual provider’s risk-adjusted contribution to excess expenditures and inspire discussions about how specific practices, such as the participation of advanced practice providers, could be impacting overall performance.

Benchmarking is necessary, but it’s not sufficient on its own.

Unlike many firms that purchase must rely on external data benchmarks as a basis for their work with providers, Premier has made clinical, quality and cost data analytics a foundational part of our business. Because our experts own and know the data, we can supercharge providers’ results.

Now more than ever, healthcare organizations must be smart about the tools and data they use to measure and improve performance. With a clear understanding of the story behind the benchmarks, providers are moving beyond incremental improvement and sustaining progress.

Learn more about how Premier’s consultants can help you today.

This article originally ran in Fierce Healthcare on March 1, 2021.

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