It’s All Relative!

Simply stated, productivity is the measure of input to output. It is typically tracked to gauge changes in performance over time. The most common way that healthcare organizations assess productivity is through internal comparisons against historical operations. This approach, however, is limiting. 

Productivity should be a comprehensive, continuous process that includes external benchmarks, routine reporting, and achievable goals in addition to past-performance analysis. The issue that many hospitals and healthcare systems face with this methodology is their belief that strong peer comparisons do not exist. Leaders strive to identify the perfect match for their organization’s structure, services, and care delivery models which, in reality, is unattainable. Too often the “apples-to-apples” excuse is used as push back for why external performance standards are inapplicable. Let’s unpack this misconception!

First, there are over 7,500 different varieties of apples grown throughout the world which gives new context to the expression. Comparing “apples-to-apples” is no different than comparing “hospital-to-hospital,” meaning there are some basic similarities, but nothing is truly the same or identical. In the realm of productivity, this is actually a good thing. Benchmarks provide a range of performance-based on 80-85% of shared functionality across all organizations. The remaining unique or non-traditional aspects to each individual hospital or health system’s operations allow for customization. This will account for the nuances in processes, requirements/regulations, staffing, and/or distinct challenges between organizations, making the benchmarks specific to the intended facility. While an “apples-to-apples” comparison may not mean what most leaders think, it’s all relative and an important step to continued performance improvement. 

In every productivity assessment, ALTIUS integrates a comparison of each client’s current operating level to national, regional, and state standards as well as to optimal facilities within a tailored peer group as part of our benchmarking analytics. Subsequently, our team focuses on the operations of individual departments as well as global performance to highlight efficiencies — or uncover opportunities — that contribute to the overall labor picture. Our three-phased approach promotes systematic improvement by making small changes consistently over time, routinely monitoring progress, and providing ongoing support that allows hospitals and health systems to not only meet, but exceed their goals year over year. 

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to unravel, healthcare organizations are reaching a crucial point in operational and strategic planning. It is imperative that certain roles, practices, policies, and even mindsets begin to change since operations can no longer revert back to a pre-pandemic state. With growing labor costs and either stagnant or declining revenue, leaders must look to workforce redesign.  Now is the time to evaluate current performance, identify opportunities for lasting process improvement, and implement a plan for future sustainability. 

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