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Comparative data lay foundation for benchmarking
(Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series on the Catholic Health Association’s (CHA) performance improvement program, "Living Our Promises, Acting on Faith." This article will deal with the comparative data process, the first step in a 3½ year journey. The second article will describe the organization’s benchmarking study, while the third will address implementation.)
It seemed a fairly straightforward assignment at first: strengthening the identity of Catholic health care. But as the process improvement team at the St. Louis-based CHA soon would find out, "It ended up consuming much more time and energy than we had expected," says the Rev. Michael Place, STD, president and CEO of CHA.
CHA, founded in 1915, represents more than 2,000 Catholic health care sponsors, systems, facilities, and related organizations.
"In February of 1998, the board began a discussion about a new strategic plan," Place recalls. This plan was to include setting as a strategic direction for the CHA to "strengthen our ability to understand, articulate, and act on Catholic identity," as set forth in the organization’s 2000 publication, Year One: Baseline Date and Observations.
"In discussing how we might do that, we observed that Catholic health care had become sophisticated in utilizing benchmarking processes to measure performance in clinical areas and in financial areas, and that those efforts have contributed to a continuous quality improvement environment," Place explains.
"So, we opined, could there not be a way for us to take the learnings from the work in the clinical and operational areas and apply them to our qualitative commitments, which are reflected in one way in the ethical and religious directive that the bishops of the United States have directed as a resource to Catholic health care?" he asks. "In other words, could we not explore using that resource as a baseline to develop a process for benchmarking our qualitative performance?"
Laying the foundation
The initial process was one of having to learn a great deal about benchmarking. "The areas in which we worked had not been primarily identified with clinical or operations, but with the Catholic dimension — that which distinguishes us," Place adds.
Nevertheless, he notes, "We did have the expertise available to us." In terms of primary staff, there were three members of the leadership team, which worked with several different member committees as the process evolved.
The project had three overriding objectives:
Before it could define the measurement system to be used, the task force identified what it called "The Constitutive Elements of Catholic Identity":
Since the task force decided to concentrate initially on acute-care facilities, the measurement system was based on organizational behaviors and realities within an acute-care facility. The data collection tool ultimately was organized around five current critical issues:
Care for Poor and Vulnerable People:
Care of the Dying:
Relationship to the Church:
For each of the five key issues, the measurement tool included measures of organizational performance as well as corresponding characteristics. For example, one measure for organizational culture was the percent of employees indicating that they experienced mutual respect among co-workers. Among the characteristics included in the tool were: "The facility offers an employee assistance program," and "Criteria for granting physician privileges include respect for employees and caregivers."
The tool was pilot-tested in 32 acute care facilities, and a total of 239 ultimately participated. The data were submitted via CHA’s web site and collected during January and February 2000.
Based on the comparative database of organizational performance, the next phase began with the selection of a performance improvement topic based on input from CHA-member organizations. Despite the fact that more time and effort were involved than had been anticipated, "We ended up feeling it was well worth the time and energy," Place concludes.Need More Information?
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