Benchmarking, a ubiquitous tool applied to clinical areas of healthcare, is often used to wrest labor efficiencies out of technology service and support operations. But if biomedical engineering is already being managed as a business, are clinical-staffing measurements really the best way to improve the biomed bottom line? We look at some updates and some of the alternatives.

f01a.jpg (9784 bytes)Management engineering has been applied to healthcare since the 1940s, often to create models that predicted nursing staff needs or improved patient flow through diagnostic testing areas. In recent years, performance measurement became inextrictably linked to computers and as huge collections of numbers accumulated in databases, the emphasis shifted to comparative analysis — AKA “benchmarking” — against typical measurements already on the record.

Several companies offer performance improvement consulting for healthcare organizations. With it’s purchase of Mecon Inc. in February 2000, and Mecon’s huge on-line database, the Healthcare Solutions unit of GE Medical Systems Information Technologies became one of the largest. Sridhar Seshadri, vice president and general manager, said his company divides its applications into clinical benchmarking — which includes ER, OR and ICU functions — and operational benchmarking, for support areas of the hospital.

“Benchmarking is a retrospective, historical look, much like a report card,” Seshadri said. “You should use benchmarking as your baseline, then analyze the data and move forward with changes and improvement.”

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