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International Benchmarking and Best Practice Management: In Search of Health Care and Hospital Excellence

International Best Practices in Health Care Management

ISBN: 978-1-78441-279-1, eISBN: 978-1-78441-278-4

Publication date: 23 February 2015



Hospitals worldwide are facing the same opportunities and threats: the demographics of an aging population; steady increases in chronic diseases and severe illnesses; and a steadily increasing demand for medical services with more intensive treatment for multi-morbid patients. Additionally, patients are becoming more demanding. They expect high quality medicine within a dignity-driven and painless healing environment.

The severe financial pressures that these developments entail oblige care providers to more and more cost-containment and to apply process reengineering, as well as continuous performance improvement measures, so as to achieve future financial sustainability. At the same time, regulators are calling for improved patient outcomes. Benchmarking and best practice management are successfully proven performance improvement tools for enabling hospitals to achieve a higher level of clinical output quality, enhanced patient satisfaction, and care delivery capability, while simultaneously containing and reducing costs.


This chapter aims to clarify what benchmarking is and what it is not. Furthermore, it is stated that benchmarking is a powerful managerial tool for improving decision-making processes that can contribute to the above-mentioned improvement measures in health care delivery. The benchmarking approach described in this chapter is oriented toward the philosophy of an input–output model and is explained based on practical international examples from different industries in various countries.


Benchmarking is not a project with a defined start and end point, but a continuous initiative of comparing key performance indicators, process structures, and best practices from best-in-class companies inside and outside industry.

Benchmarking is an ongoing process of measuring and searching for best-in-class performance:

  • Measure yourself with yourself over time against key performance indicators

  • Measure yourself against others

  • Identify best practices

  • Equal or exceed this best practice in your institution

  • Focus on simple and effective ways to implement solutions

Comparing only figures, such as average length of stay, costs of procedures, infection rates, or out-of-stock rates, can lead easily to wrong conclusions and decision making with often-disastrous consequences. Just looking at figures and ratios is not the basis for detecting potential excellence. It is necessary to look beyond the numbers to understand how processes work and contribute to best-in-class results. Best practices from even quite different industries can enable hospitals to leapfrog results in patient orientation, clinical excellence, and cost-effectiveness.


Despite common benchmarking approaches, it is pointed out that a comparison without “looking behind the figures” (what it means to be familiar with the process structure, process dynamic and drivers, process institutions/rules and process-related incentive components) will be extremely limited referring to reliability and quality of findings.

In order to demonstrate transferability of benchmarking results between different industries practical examples from health care, automotive, and hotel service have been selected.

Additionally, it is depicted that international comparisons between hospitals providing medical services in different health care systems do have a great potential for achieving leapfrog results in medical quality, organization of service provision, effective work structures, purchasing and logistics processes, or management, etc.



von Eiff, W. (2015), "International Benchmarking and Best Practice Management: In Search of Health Care and Hospital Excellence", International Best Practices in Health Care Management (Advances in Health Care Management, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 223-252.



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