The ultimate guide to clinical audits: make audits easy
Clinical audits made simple.
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The experts at InPhase go into detail about what a clinical audit is, how it can be made easy and what we can do to help.
- What is a clinical audit?
- How can a clinical audit help your organisation?
- How can a tedious clinical audit become revolutionary?
- How to make revolution easy.
What is a clinical audit?
A clinical audit investigates the quality of patient care received against benchmarks and pre-determined standards set by UK health regulators. Despite being perceived by many as a tedious practice, it can be a key driver in quality improvement in patient care, patient satisfaction and clinical efficiency and effectiveness.
Depending on the size, importance or timescale of the clinical audit, the entire process often seems overwhelming. Knowing where to begin or manage the whole affair is essential to properly resource the audit and audit management.
Clinical audits can be national audits commissioned and managed by HQIP (Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership) on behalf of NHS England or local clinical audits.
Audits are time-consuming endeavours that require intense effort at the data collection level and to evaluate the data. It’s difficult to quickly assemble results from a national audit due to the scale, with little time left for the final stages, such as developing, conducting, and re-auditing an informed action plan.
The number of audits hospitals are expected to conduct about their resources is out of proportion, the former being too many compared to the latter. This may lead to too many people being focused on the data collection phase and leaving senior doctors resenting audits altogether. They believe the time is better spent in other patient care aspects.
Following a February 2022 interview with the HSJ , NHS England elective chief, Sir Jim Mackey, hospitals will be encouraged to rely more on technology to handle the day-to-day running of various departments.The investment in technology can help organisations work towards better work practice and find out where you can save money, use your clinical time more efficiently and improve quality of care – all in a faster, more manageable way.
He said: “Because everything’s in transit with us moving towards ICSs, we’ve been quite pragmatic about [performance standards] from an NHSE perspective, but we’re now going into a much more accountable, performance management-orientated world than I think most people have clocked.
“If we are honest, we’d been drifting for a few years before covid on the key metrics. We’ve had a couple of years where, for understandable reasons, there hasn’t been quite as tight a focus on some of these things. But there will be.”
Experts at hand.
So, what do we know about it?
InPhase has delivered performance-based solutions since 1991. We have a results-driven approach based on standards, goals, mathematics, AI and statistics.
Our expert developers are passionate about creating positive change, and many organisations agree.
Clinical audits: waste of crucial resources or first steps towards revolutionary change?
The first proper clinical audit dates to everyone’s favourite nurse Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War of 1853-55. Appalled by the state of the field hospitals, she conducted what would become the first well-known clinical audit and radically reduced the mortality rates from 40% to just 2%.
Ernest Codman, another recognised founder of the more recognisable modern clinical audit, investigated surgical outcomes over a century ago in 1912.
We can trace back a high number of the clinical practices today to the systems put in place by these two: practices that continue over a century and beyond.
For it to have had this much lasting impact, we can see that clinical audits aren’t just another tedious check box to tick. They’re revolutionary.
So, why do we do clinical audits?
A clinical audit investigates healthcare practices to ensure identify whetherthat they measure up to predetermined standards set by an authority board, meet national benchmarks, or are outliers.
It is conducted to find out how to help provide the best care for patients.
It can cover several aspects, including:
- Improving patient care and satisfaction
- Finding out the best use of clinical time
- Pinpointing areas that can become more efficient or effective
- Show the best parts of your practice to others, e.g., Florence Nightingale’s lowering of mortality rates
- Identifying ways to advance practice and make positive change
How do people feel about clinical audits?
A familiar feeling surrounding clinical audits is that they are boring.
“Audits are paper-pushing check box exercises that consume valuable, scarce resource in pointless administration.”
“We do them because we have to do them.”
Overstretched, overworked and overwhelmed staff believe that clinical audits are an unnecessary use of valuable, limited resources. Spare time is one thing that NHS staff do not have.
However, what if there was a simple way to find more time?
How to make clinical audits better.
- Integrate audit information as a step in the quality improvement cycle of Plan Do Study Act . Unite everyone under a beneficial universal goal to have a clear ‘why’ to work towards. When people understand why something needs to be done and what benefits come from it, they are more likely to find a way to work towards it.
- Listen to staff suggestions at all levels as they conduct and implement changes.
- Rely on audit technology for a fast, streamlined process with clear stages, comparisons and next steps. According to the HSJ, the NHS will use “technology to more effectively gather and respond to patient feedback, so that services can quickly build on what is working and take action where improvement is required; [and] work with partners to ensure that we get a better understanding of the experience of patients..”
- Clinical audits can be a springboard for positive change
- Technology can streamline the process and deliver information in real-time, saving time, money and resources
- A strong, beneficial ‘why’ can change the minds of audit doubters and unite staff
- Triangulate audit information with other essential information such as self-assessment, complaints, incidents
- Formulate change actions and manage their delivery, and monitor their effectiveness to make real change
To stop wasting time: schedule your discovery call with InPhase and change the way you see clinical audits for good.Schedule time with us
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About the Author
Having worked in both the private and public sectors Paul has spent over a decade focusing on improving performance, reducing costs and providing board level assurance through software implementation and data analysis.
Working predominantly with NHS Organisations Paul has a wealth of experience in reviewing business processes, creating strategic improvement plans and tracking benefits realisation.