Whether you hire an independent intensive care unit (ICU) consultant or track performance in house, benchmarking is one of the most valuable tools for everyone in the unit to learn how they're functioning together as a whole. When done correctly, benchmarking shows both long-term trends and recent developments that are impacting the care your patients receive. Still struggling to convince your ICU management team that tracking certain benchmarks is worth the extra effort? These five benefits may win them over.
Better Follow Up Patterns
Many ICUs perform very well during a patient's visit, but fail to prevent relapses that lead to readmission. Readmission, even a non-ICU part of the hospital, is considered wasteful of the resources initially used to stabilize a patient who required ICU treatment. A hospital can pass every benchmark for a patient's stay and still fail to follow up with information that prevents readmission. Benchmarking is one of the best methods for catching this problem because you can compare your readmission rates against other facilities to see if you're within an average rate or experiencing a problem in one or more ICU.
Lower Patient Complications
ICUs employ a complex patient outcome prediction system to decide how much of the limited resources of the unit to devote to each patient depending on their condition and likelihood for recovery. While these systems can save lives, they must stay tied to real-life patient data to stay accurate or the predictions can start to get in the way of care instead of guiding it. Of course, there's no way to accurately adjust patient outcome models without plenty of data on what's actually happening in the ICU. Benchmarking provides the information needed to adjust preventative measures, leading to fewer complications in total thanks to better predictions.
Fewer Preventable Mistakes
Benchmarking is also one of the best ways to hunt down preventable mistakes that are effecting your ICU's performance, although it may not seem like it at first. A benchmark like the total number of sepsis cases arising after surgical intervention can highlight a weak point in the chain of treatment. You know where to start looking in your investigation to find mistakes or overlooked care opportunities. Without benchmarking, only individual cases are available to tip you off to a preventable situation. Waiting until the individual mistakes pile up translates into dozens of actual patients receiving less than the best care when a top-down approach to managing the ICU highlights mistakes much sooner.
Faster Testing of Processes
While life saving techniques are best developed and tested in a controlled environment, the ICU nonetheless serves as a live testing ground for many techniques and treatment plans. Hospital directors often find themselves in the unexpected job of testing and altering their own techniques and treatment plans without the help of a larger research or testing facility. Benchmarking makes it possible for an ICU to function as its own minor testing unit by giving immediate feedback on changes to patient handling or triage programs. With the feedback from the changes, the ICU can develop a completely unique system that saves lives and spreads to other facilities.
Easier Time Getting Funding
Finally, benchmarking is essential for gathering the data you need to convince a hospital board that certain equipment or training really is so valuable to your ICU. If you're working in a research or public hospital, grant writing becomes much less of a hassle when you already have the information generated by the benchmarking process on hand and ready to use to support your requests. Don't forget to factor in these alternative uses when considering the extra work it takes to track the benchmark information.