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Building a Culture of Safety Through Audits

using audits to build a culture of safety in healthcare

In recent years, healthcare organizations have heightened their focus on reforming organizational culture in order to improve patient safety outcomes.

A culture of safety is defined as “an integrated pattern of individual and organizational behavior, based upon shared beliefs and values, that continuously seeks to minimize patient harm that may result from the processes of care delivery.” (1)

An organization’s safety culture should also be a Just Culture, one which recognizes all team members who report adverse events and near misses. (2)

Just culture is a concept related to systems thinking which emphasizes that mistakes are generally a product of faulty organizational culture, rather than solely brought about by the person or persons directly involved. In a just culture, after an incident, the question asked is, "What went wrong?" rather than "Who caused the problem?". (3) 

It’s important for healthcare organizations to have effective protocols and systems in place in order to create a just culture and provide safe, high-quality patient care. Audits can be the right tool to measure operational success and understand where improvements are needed.

Audits measure current practice against a defined standard to assess, evaluate, and improve care of patients in a systematic way. (4)

The auditing process typically involves several steps (5):

  1. Identify a problem
  2. Define standards and criteria to be audited
  3. Collect data
  4. Analyze data
  5. Implement change
  6. Reaudit

For example, clinical audits can be used to reduce long wait times for patients in Emergency Departments. Guidelines recommend that 95% of patients should wait less than 4 hours, to prevent ED overcrowding or patients leaving without treatment. In an audit, organizations can record patient wait times for a set period of time to compare against recommended guidelines. This will help determine target areas of improvement and suggest action plans to reach these targets. (5)

The objective of this process is to ensure that all policies, procedures, and controls are sufficient for reducing patient safety risks. Audits are not intended to cause blame or confrontation in the workplace. Instead, they encourage a culture of safety by producing actionable results that can be discussed among a team. This allows leadership to develop a timeline for what goals need to be met, how they will be reached, and who is going to do it. (4)

Using Technology to Streamline Audits

A performance improvement (PI) solution can help healthcare organizations streamline their auditing process and take a smarter approach towards identifying and addressing risk. Electronic auditing tools make it easy to capture data through desktop, tablet, or mobile devices, while helping leadership teams identify areas of concern and implement action plans.

Rounding audit tools should have a user-friendly interface that is simple for supervisors to navigate. The system should make it easy for supervisors to submit an audit, alert the appropriate team members for follow-up action, and identify areas for improvement in real-time. User-friendly audit systems increase efficiency of resolution and allow risk managers to quickly identify high areas of risk.

Additionally, a software solution with customizable dashboards and analytics can help organizations track trends over time and establish action plans to prevent harmful events before they occur.

By using audits in combination with innovative methods for proactive prevention, healthcare organizations can prioritize a culture of safety and minimize patient harm.

Performance Health Partner’s Solutions

Implementing an audit software for PI and clinical rounding is an integral part of establishing an effective safety culture. With Performance Health Partner’s Solutions, healthcare organizations can optimize the audit process to get closer to zero harm. To learn more, visit request a demo here.

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  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK216084/
  2. https://www.ecri.org/components/HRCAlerts/Pages/HRCAlerts030817_Joint.aspx
  3. Catino, Maurizio (March 2008). "A Review of Literature: Individual Blame vs. Organizational Function Logics in Accident Analysis". Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management
  4. https://patient.info/doctor/audit-and-audit-cycle#:~:text=Audit%20in%20healthcare%20is%20a,of%20clinical%20care%20for%20patients
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5673151/
  6. https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/7-tips-ensuring-patient-safety-healthcare-settings/

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