Oncology Quality Studies: Benchmarking Oncology Data

In our sixth installment in this series on oncology quality studies we will look at the value, challenges, and recommendations for benchmarking oncology data.  

Benchmarking is an excellent way to identify opportunities to enhance clinical practices, workflows, procedural efficiency, cost-effectiveness, utilization, and financial outcomes. There are many sources for data, but not all are specific to oncology. The secret to successful benchmarking is its relevance to the cancer program, providers, and administrative leadership teams.

When conducting quality studies, benchmarking is not only a required element for accredited cancer programs but is one of the most useful methods to measure deviations from oncology practices across the nation. It is important to determine the metrics that reflect your hospital’s actual performance and to measure it against what matters to your team and program.  

Without a benchmark there is no way to know whether your program is meeting expectations, if an improvement for a problem is warranted, or how much improvement is needed.

By definition, a benchmark is a standard or measure against which the facility’s performance or data can be compared. Evidence-based or nationally recognized treatment or clinical practice guidelines can also be used as benchmarks.      

Effective benchmarking requires a collaborative, team approach. Here are seven recommendations to help you successfully benchmark your quality study or improvement activities.  

  1. Know your hospital’s mission, values, and leadership team. Lead with data that addresses their priorities and aligns your study goals with its mission and values. Gently educate the leadership team as you work through your study and in the writing of your final report. Introduce new information to enable them to make better decisions about cancer care.
  2. Involve and collaborate with subject matter experts (SME’s) at your hospital to help analyze and interpret the comparative data and outcomes. CoC-accredited facilities must also involve the Cancer Liaison Physician (CLP) in this process.  
  3. Emphasize the obvious through data visualization. Carefully present the facts. While they may be obvious to you or the study team, they may not be noticed or appreciated by leadership. Use tables, flow charts, infographics, images, and other visualization tools to illustrate the facts and compliment the text content.
  4. Work within the purpose and goals of your study project. Model the expected outcomes you have already achieved or hope to see. Stress the value your study, data and projected outcomes will bring to the bottom line. Be reasonable when asking for funding, staffing or resources to engage the leadership team and reader in your vision and goals.  
  5. Create and measure specific cancer care dashboards or facility-specific benchmarks that are not only important but resonate with the leadership team. Dashboards that can be used after the study is complete will ensure that the process is working properly.    
  6. Use benchmarks that have national comparison to jump-start your program’s quality or efficiency efforts.
  7. Focus on marketable data that can be used to communicate to a broader audience about your cancer program performance or contribution to the bottom line. Be prepared to show comparisons between your hospital and competitors in your region.  

There are several quality tools available from the National Cancer Database (NCDB) on public reporting of data generated from cancer registries and programs across the country. NCDB Quality Tools include the NCDB Hospital Comparison Benchmark Reports, Survival Reports, Cancer Quality Improvement Program (CQIP), and Public Benchmark Reports. Accredited programs also have access to the Rapid Cancer Reporting System, other clinical quality measure data and participant user files (PUF).

Accredited programs are given permission to reproduce NCDB text, tables, and figures for purposes of developing print or electronic reports for internal, patient, or public use. Public use reports include websites, community outreach, brochures, and service announcements.  

In our seventh and final installment of this series we will explore the value of an effective plan of action or corrective action plan.    

To see other installments in this series, click on the link below: 

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This program has been approved for continuing education unit(s) (CEUs) for use in fulfilling the continuing education requirements of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Granting of Approved CEUs from AHIMA does not constitute endorsement of the program content or its program provider.