Today, the quality of healthcare is crucial for the effective functioning of the national healthcare system and for the provision of patients with healthcare services of the high quality. The development of contemporary technologies allows healthcare organizations and professionals to offer clients healthcare services of the high quality and to prevent the development of serious health problems as well as to treat them successfully. However, the high quality of healthcare services is possible to maintain only on the condition of regular audit of the performance of healthcare organizations because audit is an effective and reliable tool for assuring and improving quality in healthcare organizations that contribute to the improvement of the overall quality of the healthcare system.
In fact, audit in the healthcare context implies the quality improvement process that seeks to improve patient care and outcomes through systematic review of care against explicit criteria and the implementation of change (Gilmore, 2000). In such a way, audit implies the regular review of the performance of healthcare organizations and professionals that aims at the overall improvement of their performance.
The audit in the healthcare setting involves several key stages. First, auditors have to identify the problem or issue (Department of Health 1999). The identification of the problem indicates, where healthcare organizations have to introduce improvements and innovations that can improve the quality of healthcare services delivered to patients.
Second, the audit should define criteria and standards (Department of Health 1997). In fact, criteria and standards should set the overall quality of healthcare services, which healthcare organizations and professionals should match. In actuality, national standards of healthcare may lay the foundation for criteria and standards used by auditors. However, as the national healthcare system keeps progressing, the audit should offer higher criteria and standards to improve the quality of healthcare services.
The next step in audit is data collection (Gilmore,). In fact, data collection allows auditors to collect the information concerning the performance of healthcare organizations and healthcare professionals, which influences their performance and which may affect changes introduced by organizations and healthcare professionals to improve their performance. The more information auditors collect the more adequate their assessment of the performance of healthcare organizations and professionals is. In addition, healthcare organizations can use the collected information for their own benefits for they have an opportunity to introduce changes, which maximize their performance and the information collected by auditors can reveal actual or possible weaknesses and strengths of healthcare organizations.
Furthermore, the audit should compare performance with criteria and standards (Calman, 1992). If the difference between the set criteria and standards and the actual performance are identified, the healthcare organization should work to improve its performance and to meet existing norms and standards.
On identifying existing problems and setting standards, healthcare organizations should start implementing change on the ground of the information collected in the course of the audit (Lacey et al., 2000). In fact, changes have to be introduced in accordance to the standards and they should improve the overall performance of healthcare organizations and professionals.
At the same time, healthcare organizations should focus on sustaining improvements (Department of Health 1998). What is meant here is the fact that healthcare organizations should develop a long-run strategy of the improvement of its performance that focuses on the quality of healthcare services being delivered to patients.
Thus, quality is crucial in the contemporary healthcare setting. The audit helps healthcare organizations and professionals to identify existing problems and solve them. Therefore, healthcare organizations can improve their performance as they identify their problems and attempt to meet high quality standards.
Calman, KC. Quality: a view from the centre. Quality in Health Care 1992;1(S)28–(S)33.
Department of Health. Working for Patients. Working Paper London: HMSO, 1989.
Department of Health. Terms and Conditions of Service of Hospital and Medical and Dental Staff. London: HMSO, 1997.
Department of Health. A First Class Service. Quality in the new NHS. HSC, 1998:33. London: HMSO, 1998.
Department of Health. Corporate Governance in NHS, Code of Conduct, Code of Accountability. London: HMSO, 1994.
Department of Health. Health Act 1999. London: HMSO, 1999.
Department of Health. Supporting doctors, protecting patients. London: HMSO, 1999.
General Medical Council. Revalidation – the profession moves forwards. GMC News 1999; Issue 5.
General Medical Council. Revalidating doctors: ensuring standards, securing the future. London: General Medical Council, 2000.
Gilmore, I. Clinical governance: what is it, what it isn’t, and what it should be. Hospital Medicine 2000, 61:51–53.
The Royal College of Pathologists. Clinical Audit in Pathology. London: The Royal College of Pathologists. 1997.
Lacey G, de, Godwin R and Manhire A (eds). Clinical Governance and Revalidation: a practical guide for radiologists. London: The Royal College of Radiologists, 2000