The past week's stories seem to have a shared underlying theme - setting a standard for performance. This is often referred to as benchmarking. Of course, the AAMI release of their benchmarking program for sterile processing departments is the most obvious example in the news. But other stories also allude to efforts to set a standard for performance based upon research and upon past performance.
Benchmarking is the process of comparing one's performance to the best practices of others in an industry or profession. Often times the greatest challenge is finding the reference metrics to use. Sometimes institutions decide to benchmark against their own performance metrics. This can make sense for a couple of reasons. First, each institution (or individual) is unique and outside measures of performance may not apply. Second, and more practically, the data for internal performance is readily available. External data may not be available, or may be very expensive to acquire.
Great value, however, can come from comparing performance to that of others trying to accomplish similar goals. Such an exercise can force an organization (and individuals) to look at things in a new way and recalculate the definition of a "job well done." Ultimately, a mix of establishing internally and externally derived benchmark metrics is probably the best solution.