Benchmarking specialty hospitals, a scoping review on theory and practice

A. Wind, W. H. Van Harten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
206 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Although benchmarking may improve hospital processes, research on this subject is limited. The aim of this study was to provide an overview of publications on benchmarking in specialty hospitals and a description of study characteristics. Methods: We searched PubMed and EMBASE for articles published in English in the last 10 years. Eligible articles described a project stating benchmarking as its objective and involving a specialty hospital or specific patient category; or those dealing with the methodology or evaluation of benchmarking. Results: Of 1,817 articles identified in total, 24 were included in the study. Articles were categorized into: pathway benchmarking, institutional benchmarking, articles on benchmark methodology or -evaluation and benchmarking using a patient registry. There was a large degree of variability:(1) study designs were mostly descriptive and retrospective; (2) not all studies generated and showed data in sufficient detail; and (3) there was variety in whether a benchmarking model was just described or if quality improvement as a consequence of the benchmark was reported upon. Most of the studies that described a benchmark model described the use of benchmarking partners from the same industry category, sometimes from all over the world. Conclusions: Benchmarking seems to be more developed in eye hospitals, emergency departments and oncology specialty hospitals. Some studies showed promising improvement effects. However, the majority of the articles lacked a structured design, and did not report on benchmark outcomes. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of benchmarking to improve quality in specialty hospitals, robust and structured designs are needed including a follow up to check whether the benchmark study has led to improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number245
Number of pages20
JournalBMC health services research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2017


  • Benchmarking
  • Quality improvement
  • Specialty hospitals


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