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Improving benchmarking by using an explicit framework for the development of composite indicators: an example using pediatric quality of care

Jochen Profit123*, Katri V Typpo4, Sylvia J Hysong23, LeChauncy D Woodard23, Michael A Kallen5 and Laura A Petersen23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX, USA

2 Section of Health Services Research, Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA

3 Houston Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston, TX, USA

4 University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, Tucson, AZ, USA

5 The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Department of General Internal Medicine, Ambulatory Treatment and Emergency Care, Houston, TX, USA

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Implementation Science 2010, 5:13  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-5-13

Published: 9 February 2010



The measurement of healthcare provider performance is becoming more widespread. Physicians have been guarded about performance measurement, in part because the methodology for comparative measurement of care quality is underdeveloped. Comprehensive quality improvement will require comprehensive measurement, implying the aggregation of multiple quality metrics into composite indicators.


To present a conceptual framework to develop comprehensive, robust, and transparent composite indicators of pediatric care quality, and to highlight aspects specific to quality measurement in children.


We reviewed the scientific literature on composite indicator development, health systems, and quality measurement in the pediatric healthcare setting. Frameworks were selected for explicitness and applicability to a hospital-based measurement system.


We synthesized various frameworks into a comprehensive model for the development of composite indicators of quality of care. Among its key premises, the model proposes identifying structural, process, and outcome metrics for each of the Institute of Medicine's six domains of quality (safety, effectiveness, efficiency, patient-centeredness, timeliness, and equity) and presents a step-by-step framework for embedding the quality of care measurement model into composite indicator development.


The framework presented offers researchers an explicit path to composite indicator development. Without a scientifically robust and comprehensive approach to measurement of the quality of healthcare, performance measurement will ultimately fail to achieve its quality improvement goals.