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The importance of clinical audit

Better patient outcomes

Operating theatre at Dunedin Hospital
Surgeons at Dunedin Hospital—the home of Otago Clinical Audit.

Clinical audit is a critical systematic analysis of the performance of an individual, a team, or an organisation's clinical work.

It involves the collection and measurement of clinical activities and their outcomes, and provides patients with confidence in the quality of services provided. The results of an audit are interpreted with consultation and peer review.

Analysis and comparisons using accepted standards, performance indicators, and outcome parameters then become an important stimulus in identifying areas for learning and for the improvement of patient care.

The ultimate goal of an audit process is improved clinical practice, leading to better patient outcomes.

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Enhanced professional development

Clinical audit enables surgeons to benefit from peer review and feedback, from which they can maintain confidence in their practice abilities.

Case study analysis clearly presents what has happened with patients admitted for care. Possible issues can be identified and alternative practices discussed.

Surgeons should be aware of the pattern of their practice and their performance, so adjustments can be made to advance professional development and improve their services to the community.

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Better clinical governance

Clinical audit has become the keystone for clinical governance within the modern practice of surgery, and an integral requirement for surgeons' continuing professional development.

A good clinical audit process allows surgeons and hospitals to accurately report their outcomes with the potential to:

  • Analyse and compare performance indicators and outcomes
  • Perform in-depth peer review
  • Identify ways to improving care and outcomes
  • Lower the cost of providing improved patient care
  • Assist in the continuing education of surgeons

The Otago Clinical Audit solution provides the tools, technologies, and support to make effective and efficient audit a reality, providing a key framework for ongoing quality assurance.

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Continuous organisational improvement

Clinical audit provides the opportunity to confirm established processes resulting in expected outcomes, but more importantly, highlight potential problems areas within an organisation.

It involves capturing basic information about the day-to-day work of clinical practice in order to look closely, identify problems, consider and make changes, and monitor progress towards improved patient outcomes.

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A strengthened health system

Audit is important in that it supports clinicians to make sure their patients get the best care possible.

It can provide evidence of the need for organisational change, government policy change, and or extra funding requirements to support health practices.

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Standards compliance

An audit confirms standards. Many surgical procedures have national and international standards against which performance can be measured.

The Royal Australian College of Surgeons (RACS) is a strong proponent of clinical audit.

Other surgical colleges are also starting to mandate audit.

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