5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Audit Programme

Karen West
December 3, 2019

A well designed and consistent audit programme can be one of the best tools for driving quality and patient safety improvements across all healthcare areas. But why use another “app” or create a new programme unless you really want to make a difference. By changing the way we do things, we can drive sustainable change and improvement. So, here are my 5 tips for getting the most out your audit programme:

1. Engage everywhere at all levels

Quality is a very broad term. It encompasses many different things to different people. By involving your frontline staff (and patients!), you not only gain a wealth of experience - you also create ownership and interest. If your band 6 nurse doesn’t see the point in a question, chances are it won’t be assessed properly. Perhaps they have a point, it’s not relevant to their area, or they haven’t understood why  the question is important. This gives you an opportunity to improve. By listening and acting on what your staff tell you, you encourage them to give more feedback. This allows you to better understand what quality means to them in their healthcare setting.

“The impact that we’ve seen from Perfect Ward is the increase of knowledge of our workforce. They understand more where they are. When you know where you are you can plan your journey to improvement”

– Les Porter, Associate Director of Nursing - Corporate Nursing, Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

2. Provide the right tools and information from day 1

Rushing to deliver a programme without careful set up has significant pitfalls. Train staff too early and you can lose interest and momentum. You want to harness the enthusiasm that comes from embracing new tech-enabled processes. You can lose this if staff aren’t able to start using the audit programme straight away. You’ll then want to build on it, so your staff see the immediate benefits.

If we get it right, those who are well trained become your ambassadors. Their enthusiasm will encourage others to be active in driving quality improvements across the organisation.

3. Learn quickly and don’t be afraid to change your mind

Even with the best intentions, we all make mistakes. This can be particularly true if you are designing something new. So, you need to be able to quickly recognise where things are not working and change them and re-test. We do this frequently with our customers. In the first three months of implementation, we will tend to do three major iterations of audits. We balance out the need for proper assurance with the time it takes to carry out inspections.

4. Focus on the so-what

The healthcare industry is overwhelmed with data. Healthcare measures everything! Often, I wonder how often people step back and challenge what they see and ask a simple “so what”.  Providing information is useless in isolation. You need to be able to understand what this means and what action you take. The actions will help define your process that sits around your audit programme:

– Is the information accurate? – if it’s questionable, what protocols could you put into your process to verify audits provide an honest view of quality

– Who needs to act on this information?

– What sort of actions do you need to take?

– How do you ensure those actions are successful?

5. Celebrate success

When we created Perfect Ward, we set out to create ease and efficiency in quality and patient safety improvement.  We didn’t realise we had the potential to completely change the culture around audit! Our leads within NHS organisations feedback that introducing Perfect Ward has changed staff’s attitude to audit.

Audits were seen as a negative, management driven tool. It was employed to seek out issues. Now, however, it has become an aid, helping staff at every level of the organisation understand what good quality is.  By providing clear information about the issues, they are empowered to make changes. Frontline staff can take ownership of their improvements to quality and patient safety.

So my final tip is to ensure that staff focus as much attention on success as well as identifying issues. By highlighting improvements that everyone can see, staff are motivated to share best practice. Everyone benefits.

“Since we’ve implemented Perfect Ward, staff have really engaged. They are keen to demonstrate how well they’re doing with their audits. It’s the successes that they love to share.” 

– Emily Wells, Matron - Clinical Lead on IT Solutions, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

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