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Almost every time I go into a meeting, I wait in anticipation for how many times someone will use the phrase “best practice.” A best practice to reduce cost, a best practice to improve care, a best practice to improve the business office…best practice, best practice, best practice.

In the past two years, the phrase best practice seems to be the latest hot buzz phrase.

But are we really talking about best practices? And if they are, how long does it take for a best practice to be spread?

I was a little shocked an amazed to hear South Carolina President and CEO Thornton Kirby reference an Institute of Medicine report that it takes more than a decade for a best practice to be spread nationwide.

More than 10 years?  I totally understand first taking the time to ensure that a method or technique has consistently shown results above those achieved with other means. And then evolving that practice to become better as improvements are discovered.

One good example is how South Carolina hospitals have implemented best practices to improve quality of care and outcomes. One of them includes cardiovascular care. Hospitals began to work together to reduce the time it takes to get heart attach patients into treatment once they arrive at the emergency room. The recommended time is no more than 90 minutes. By 2010, South Carolina hospitals had reduced the average door-to-balloon time to 62 minutes.

But is everything done in health care reducing costs, improving population health  and improving the patient experience a best practice?

No. So, why is best practice so commonly used and accepted without a second thought?

I agree that health care leaders and community partners need to come together to improve health care quality and population health. For me, that’s a given. I’ve been able to see and hear about improvements that have been made when partners do work together, which ultimately improves outcomes.

But how much more can the phrase “best practice” be used? And I wonder, is it being overused?