Performance measurement: a good or a bad thing?

Mikhail Nilov

Although the use of performance measurement in healthcare has increased significantly in recent years, there is also criticism of the desire to make everything quantifiable. How much time a nurse has to make a bed, the satisfaction of patients or customers with a treatment or the marginal cost of a bed in a hospital – through performance measurement we can gain ‘insight’ in all of it. Dr Hilco van Elten, Dr Sandra Sülz of Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM), and Dr Berend van der Kolk investigated whether the way performance measures are used is related to their outcomes.

The trend to measure performance is part of the international trend to manage organisations in the public sector in a more ‘business-like’ manner: “New Public Management” (or NPM). Since the 1980s, an international trend of making the public sector more ‘business-like’ has been launched under the banner of NPM. The public sector and the social domain should be more focused on achieving concrete results. Such a focus on performance would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector organisations such as hospitals.

Performance measurement is perhaps one of the most important components of this NPM movement. Earlier studies suggested that the way performance measurement is used is particularly influential on its effects. In a recently published study, Dr Hilco van Elten and Dr Sandra Sülz (ESHPM) together with Dr Berend van der Kolk (IE Business School, Madrid) investigated whether the way performance measurement was used was related to its positive or negative outcomes in hospitals. The study looked at the quality of the care processes, the patient orientation and empathy of the care provided, the efficiency and effectiveness of the care, but also at the work culture within the department.

The survey study among Dutch hospital managers shows that while focusing on figures can increase efficiency, it can also reduce the quality of patient-oriented care. On the contrary, a ‘learning’ attitude of managers towards performance information contributes positively to the collective work culture and the quality of patient-oriented care.

Read the full research report here.

Assistant professor
Dr Hilco van Elten
Assistant professor
Dr Berend van der Kolk
More information

The full research report has now been published. Read it here.

This article is based on the Dutch synopsis of this study that was previously published on Qruxx.

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