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Top ten tips for benchmarking buddies

We are all familiar with reference site visits in the healthcare technology world whether we are at the latter stage of a system procurement or engaged in an IT enabled transformational change programme. Reference site visits are either a necessary evil to be endured as part of a tightly managed process or a real moment of enlightenment.

It is great to hear of the recent announcement by the secretary of state of the 12 exemplar hospitals and the intention to marry them up with an international buddy. We equally hope that someone has also been through ‘the how and the why questions’ in order for the 12 UK exemplars to obtain maximum benefit from this unique opportunity.  At their most basic, buddying schemes facilitate benchmarking. “A process of searching for and achieving improved levels of performance through a systematic comparison of performance and processes and ways of working in different organisations.” Benchmarking requires information to be shared with others in order to seek out best practice and to allow those practices to be adapted for local use. This works best when all those involved are able to be open, honest and transparent. In this environment learning is often a two way process with neither party feeling inferior or subservient to the other.  Benchmarking is a key component in the process of continuous improvement.

There are many benefits of being actively involved with benchmarking and working with a buddy. Benchmarking is internationally recognised as a useful technique through which to introduce service improvement, to learn from others and to justify acceptable differences between the performances of different health care providers. As such don’t waste time and effort looking for the perfect match or a 100% like-for-like comparison. Good enough is good enough.

Benchmarking should be viewed as a regular activity rather than a one off exercise. This is particularly relevant when the aim is for continuous improvement. As such, selecting the best time to undertake a benchmarking exercise will often depend on the purpose behind it. Not having clarity of purpose is likely to result in ‘so what’?

Information has been shared, strategies exchanged and business cases compared. A site visit / exchange visit is offered and you accept. Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your efforts:

  1. Ensure that you are focused and well prepared and take advantage of all the information on the benchmarking partner
  2. Don’t waste time collecting information that is freely available in advance and make sure you go with an agenda
  3. Identify the process owners and ensure that you have time with them
  4. Look for examples of best practice and avoid the “wow” visit often associated with insufficient preparation where you marvel at the host’s performance but leave with no idea of how that level of performance is achieved.
  5. Be professional, prompt, honest and courteous , use universal language and avoid jargon and make sure you do not reveal confidential information
  6. Allow your benchmarking partner to learn about your methods and how these will be compared
  7. De-brief soon after the visit and be clear about the learning points
  8. Maintain momentum and follow up action points quickly
  9.  Be prepared to offer a reciprocal visit and share information about your own processes
  10. Agree how the outcomes of the visit could be shared with others

For more information about buddying and international benchmarking contact John Rayner, Regional Director, HIMSS Analytics – Europe and Latin America. John.Rayner@himssanalytics.org @himssjohn or +44 (0) 7798877252