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Keywords:

  • benchmarking;
  • quality;
  • quality improvement;
  • midwifery

Quality management in clinical practice involves the use of numerous techniques that monitor the quality of care clinicians provide. Quality improvement is an approach to quality management that emphasizes system and processes, rather than a focus on individual performance. Quality improvement examines objective data to improve these processes, even when high standards of performance appear to have been met. Benchmarking measures one's processes and outcomes against “best in class” and is a part of a quality improvement program. By using benchmarking to provide goals for realistic process improvement and identification of the most efficient and effective methods of meeting all of their customer's needs, health care providers can document their effectiveness in terms of cost, quality, and satisfaction. This article details the American College of Nurse-Midwives' benchmarking project and presents benchmarks for obstetric practice from the year 2004.