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Audits – An Essential Part of Professional Development
Dental team members need to show that the care they provide meets the standards expected by regulators. They must also have systems in place to monitor and constantly improve their services. Whilst patient feedback, both positive and negative, as well as complaints monitoring are extremely useful, self-evaluation plays a very important role in several factors. This includes monitoring, maintaining and raising standards and ultimately improving patient care.
In dental practice there is an expectation that audits will be carried out on a regular basis, and the results used for training purposes where required. Audit is an essential part of the professional development of the entire dental team. In an audit cycle, current practice is measured against accepted criteria following collection of data. When this information is analysed any required changes can be implemented and the cycle repeated.
What should I audit?
There are numerous audit topics, both clinical and administrative, that dental practices can choose. In certain cases the topic may arise as a result of an incident such as a patient complaint. There is an expectation that dental practices will be carrying out certain audits on a regular basis for mandatory reasons, such as on infection control. This is currently expected to be carried out every six months as a minimum. The infection prevention society provides a very useful audit toolkit for this purpose.
Care Quality Commission inspectors will always check on availability of infection control audits, which should be retained for two years. An audit on hand washing carried out annually is not only useful for team training but helps in infection prevention, as well as staff welfare.
Radiation regulations state that quality assurance programmes should be in place to ensure that radiographs are of a high standard. Also, that their use is justified and the dose of radiation is kept as low as practical. Best practice allows for an annual audit of radiographs. A review of dental complaints at the GDC suggests that record keeping is criticised in a majority of cases. Therefore, clinicians would be wise to audit the standards of record keeping on a regular basis, in order to ensure that standards are maintained.
All about patient care
Audits may be carried for a variety of reasons whether compliance, improving business targets or triggered by incidents. Ultimately this useful tool must have an improvement goal, and at its heart it’s all about improving patient care.
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