Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate


BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 16 September 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:739
  1. Sue Kinn,
  2. Nichola Lee,
  3. Andrew Millman

    Clinical audit is generally described as a cycle composed of several stages, the traditional audit cycle. Put simply, it is a way of improving current performance by deciding on the ideal (setting standards), looking at the real situation (measuring current performance), and finding ways of moving from the real to the ideal (implementing change). The cycle is closed by reassessing performance after an interval to assess the effectiveness of the change.

    All clinicians should be measuring their performance against a locally defined standard. In addition, as awareness of the usefulness of audit increases other issues about guidelines are being raised. There is a growing move towards evidence based medicine and a feeling that best practice can be agreed nationally (or internationally) and local standards developed from guidelines. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to collect clinical information in a way that allows it to be pooled for both local and national analysis. Computers are ideally suited to this role.

    Clinical audit

    The systematic critical analysis of the quality of care, including the procedures used for diagnosis and treatment, the use of resources, and the resulting outcome and quality of life for the patient.

    Computers and audit

    For many people audit has become synonymous with computers. This idea was reinforced when a large proportion of the money ringfenced for audit was spent on computer systems, with varying degrees of success.

    Audit is about asking questions concerning clinical practice and necessitates analysis of clinical data. For a few cases, or small data sets, this can be achieved with paper based systems, and many successful audits have not used computers at all. However, if you have a large data …

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