6.3 Setting audit aims and objectives

A clinical audit with no clear purpose will deliver little or no improvement to the quality and effectiveness of clinical care. Clearly stated aims and objectives specify the purpose and scope of the audit, and provide a basis for keeping the audit focused.

Remember the primary goal of clinical audit is quality improvement, so this should be reflected in your audit aims.

Aims are broad, simple statements that describe what you want to achieve.

Ideally, audit aims should include verbs such as: improve, increase, enhance, ensure or change (Buttery, 1998), which convey the intention to measure current practice and identify where improvement may be needed.

An audit of surgical safety checklists might have as its overall aim: ‘To improve adherence with completion of surgical safety checklists for all surgical procedures performed under general anaesthesia’

Audit objectives are more detailed statements that are used to describe the different aspects of quality which will be measured to show how the aim of the clinical audit will be met.

Therefore audit objectives should contain a verb to describe what you want to do, the intervention or service you are evaluating and an aspect of quality related to that intervention or service (Maxwell, 1992 ).

An audit of surgical safety checklists might have specific objectives: ‘To increase the number of surgical cases for which a completed surgical safety checklist is included within the patient’s clinical records’ and ‘To ensure the content of the surgical safety checklist provides an accurate record of pre-induction, intra-operative and post-surgical checks carried out’

Example Scenario

Completion of financial consent forms

At Matthew’s veterinary hospital, owners are required to complete two consent forms: one for the treatment/procedure and one that records any estimate provided and obtains financial consent for the procedures to be performed. After a client complaint regarding the cost of treatment, the administrative members of the team report that the financial consent form had not been completed at the time of admission for this case.

Matthew plans a process clinical audit, to quantify and improve the rate of consent form completion at his hospital.

His audit aim is “to improve the completion rate of financial consent forms for patients admitted to the hospital”.

He sets specific objectives: “to ensure all consent forms are filled in at admission by reception team members or clinicians with a procedure and financial estimate” and “to ensure all financial consent forms are signed by owners to serve as a written record of them having provided informed consent and agreeance to the financial estimate provided”.