Hospitals in Canada are increasingly being challenged to play leadership roles in the restructuring of the healthcare system. At a time when funding is not matching the growth in the population's need for and use of the healthcare system, acute-care hospitals must continue to provide high-quality, cost-effective care. Some hospitals have responded to this cost challenge by incorporating high-performing clinical and operational processes developed by their peers into their own institutions. This "benchmarking" was popularized by Xerox in the 1980s and has been recognized as an essential ingredient in the success of outstanding organizations. The Healthcare Forum has defined benchmarking as "the method of continuously comparing and measuring the work processes of organizations to gain information which will help improve performance" (The Healthcare Forum, 1993). Benchmarking allows organizations to accelerate the rate of improvement by learning from others and setting improvement goals based on real, demonstrated levels of performance.
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