A Guide to Auditing in Dentistry

What is an Audit?

An Audit is an analysis of the quality of dental care provided by a practice which can include the procedures and processes for diagnosis, intervention and treatment, the use of resources and the outcome and quality of care for patients. 
An audit can be collaborative or individual. 

The key characteristic of an audit is that it is a cyclic process:

   1. Define a question
   2. Set criteria and standards
   3. Collect data
   4. Analyse the data
   5. Make any changes
       and repeat

Without the second cycle, the project does not qualify as an audit, instead it is just a research project.

Why do an Audit?

Since the horrific case of Harold Shipman a few decades ago there has been a lot more regulation in the health care system in general. 
Audits are really important in order to identify strengths as well as any weaknesses in quality of care. It can also help improve the care for patients and encourages change from within. 

It is also now a requirement - a GDC registered dentist must carry out 15 hours of clinical audit/peer review every 3 years (verifiable CPD).

What subjects can an Audit be on?

Here are just a few examples of clinical audits:
  • Radiograph quality 
  • Medical history taking
  • Record keeping
  • IDB failure rates
  • Crown margins
  • Antibiotic prescribing
  • Recall intervals
  • Patient waiting time
  • Patient lateness and DNA rate
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Denture fits
  • Endodontic success

Example Format of an Audit

1. Introduction

 Title - what is the audit on
 Background - why is an audit important
 Aims and objectives - set standards e.g. Gold standard, acceptable, not acceptable. 

2. Method

 Sample size e.g. how many patients
 Dates the sample was taken from
 How the standard is being assessed - set criteria e.g. grade 1 radiograph is one with no errors
 Data caption form i.e. spreadsheets
 Graphic representation of data e.g. bar charts, pie charts

3. Discussion

Results from this cycle
Compare both cycles if this is the second cycle
What standards did the practice achieve
How this impacts on patient care

4. Conclusions

Did the practice meet its aims?
Any problems with assessment 

5. Action plan

A plan to implement improvements
When will the next cycle of audit will take place?

This may be useful to know for those of you whose DF1 interviews are coming up in November. 
If anyone has any questions or has done any interesting audits please leave your comments in the section below!

Why not take a look at my other Clinical Guide posts?

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