The terms “scorecard” and “dashboard” are very often used interchangeably, even though practice may be viewed as technically incorrect by “purists”. One of the best descriptions of the difference between the two terms comes from Wayne Eckerson’s book “Performance Dashboards – Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing your Business.”
The main difference between a scorecard and dashboard is where they are utilized.
In a healthcare environment, dashboards are typically deployed at the “operations” level (such as a department or unit within a hospital). They are typically designed to provide managers and supervisors with the “right-time” information they need to effectively manage their unit. For example, an Emergency Department manager may use a dashboard to monitor the length of stay of patients in the Waiting Room, the number of patients waiting for consultants, or the number of patients who are pending admission but still in the ED. Ideally, a well-designed dashboard can provide managers the data needed for effective and efficient patient flow by helping to identify and quantify issues before they become critical.
Scorecards, on the other hand, tend to resemble performance charts and help executives track strategic and long-term objectives of the organization. For example, an executive scorecard may be used to track staffing vacancy rates, critical occurrences, or financial indicators. Scorecards will normally include baseline and/or target figures for each of the metrics being tracked, as well as performance trends. Scorecards also tend to include more textual commentary and other information that puts results observed, actions taken, and future forecasts into context.
The bottom line, according to Eckert, is that “both dashboards and scorecards need to display critical performance information on a single screen so users can monitor results at a glance”. It is important not to get caught up in the term applied; instead, ensure that the tool being deployed provides the right information in the right time interval in the right format, and that it helps maintain focus on what is important to unit, department, program, hospital, and/or organization.