Clinical audit: an important part of patient safety?

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: ‘Do no harm’ is a fundamental principle for any caregiver – in both human and animal worlds. Human healthcare has long acknowledged and quantified the iatrogenic harm inflicted on patients through the errors and mistakes of caregivers. In the complex world of healthcare, 1 in 10 visits to hospital involve an error in the chain of care, and an estimated 400,000 people a year die as a result of doctors’ or nurses’ mistakes (De Vries et al. 2008). In contrast, there are no published studies of incident rates in the veterinary literature. We acknowledge that they happen, yet we have no measure of them – how often, how severe, the most common, the most expensive, the most preventable. If we want to ensure and improve patient safety, knowing the current situation would be the most logical place to start.

: Patient safety is the priority for everyone in veterinary practice, but what has clinical audit got to do with this? Well quite a lot actually. Clinical audit provides the tools to look at results of procedures and put preventative methods in place, making veterinary procedures safer. Do you know the rate of post-operative complications in your practice for routine neutering and how they compare with national benchmarks? What about anaesthetic monitoring, do you audit the process of filling in anaesthetic monitoring sheets as well as the outcomes and complications of anaesthesia? If you use surgical safety checklists do you audit their use and look at what the barriers are to them being used more widely? Collecting the data is only a small part of audit. Discussing the results with the team who are involved in the work on the ground – what could be changed, what prevents current systems working as they should be – is a very important part of the audit process. Once the team is on board and changes have been made, re-audit is vital to see if the changes have had any impact. Implementing small changes that do make a difference can have a big impact on patient safety. This session will introduce delegates to clinical audit and the free learning materials, case examples, and the tools that have been created specifically for veterinary teams to put into practice straightaway.

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