Clinical Audit: Definition and Cycle
10 March 2022
In healthcare, clinical audits are vital to ensure that the quality of care being provided by organisations, whether it be private or NHS Trusts, is in line with standards. A primary aim is to show where services are performing well, and where there needs to be improved outcomes for patients. There are two types: national clinical audits and local clinical audits.
Clinical audit definition
In 2002, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defined clinical audit as:
“Clinical audit is a quality improvement process that seeks to improve patient care and outcomes through systematic review of care against explicit criteria and the implementation of change. Aspects of the structure, processes, and outcomes of care are selected and systematically evaluated against explicit criteria. Where indicated, changes are implemented at an individual, team, or service level and further monitoring is used to confirm improvement in healthcare delivery.”
The clinical audit cycle
There are stages to clinical audit that cover establishing best practice, measuring against benchmarks, actively working towards improving care, and keeping an eye so that improvement is sustained.
Radar Healthcare is an innovative software that can sit at the heart of your clinical audit cycle, helping you with each and every aspect so you can drive improvements in the care you provide. Whether you’re carrying out clinical audits in the NHS or private services, our audit tool is flexible to fit your needs.
1. Determining best practice
What do we want to achieve from our clinical audit?
- Every clinical audit should be clear on what the aim for quality improvement is, along with solid objectives.
- Performance should be measured against the best available evidence which is referenced.
- Every staff member in the team delivering the audited service should be told about the project from the start.
Radar Healthcare’s document management module allows you to store all your policies in one place and link these with associated audits.
2. Measuring against benchmarks
How are we performing now and how does it compare to benchmarks?
- Only data required to measure compliance with audit standards should be measured.
- The data collected should be analysed to measure compliance with standards, in a clear way.
- Full details must be recorded so if any repeats are necessary, they can be carried out in exactly the same way.
Radar Healthcare’s audit management allows you to create any clinical audits you need to complete. Assign ownership and schedule any re-occurrences so you can be sure that nothing gets missed. You can clearly see audit results in the analytics dashboards so for comparison against benchmarks.
Spark Medical, a patient transport organisation, said “Radar Healthcare has saved us 4 hours every month on clinical audits, with the added benefit of no admin help being required, meaning we can focus more time on providing care.”
3. Actively working towards improving care
How can we drive improvements?
- Results should be shared with stakeholders. If non-compliance is presented, underlying causes must be found.
- An action plan must be created to address any underlying causes. System improvements should be proposed to reduce these.
- The action plan must be actioned and the results monitored.
Easily spot which questions have been failed in your clinical audits with Radar Healthcare. The analytics module has dashboards for complete oversight of audit outcomes, including one for failed results so you can see which particular questions are being failed on.
When the result of an audit is not to standard, Radar Healthcare will instruct relevant staff to begin the necessary action plan. In your action plans, you can see next to each action how many failed audit questions it is linked to, allowing you to prioritise for improvement.
4. Sustaining improvement
Are we keeping our standards?
- The audit cycle is only complete once there is evidence to show that the action plan resulted in an improvement in the quality of services.
- Stakeholders must determine if an audit needs to be repeated to sustain any improvement. Ongoing monitoring should be established.
- Audit results and action plan outcomes should be documented and shared with the organisation, as well as service users and the public.
- Shared learning is encouraged with people both in the organisation, and associated groups like commissioners and clinical networks.
Radar Healthcare’s analytics dashboards allow you to track trends over time, and you can set up notifications set to rules you choose that align with your KPIs. For example, if an audit score is below 80%, relevant staff members get notified so that they can take action to bring the score back up and sustain improvement.
Predictive analytics forecast future audit score outcomes from historic data, meaning you can predict how the scores will look in the future.