How could a New Urgency to Modernise Clinical Audit Help in the NHS?

Opinion Article by Mark Pridmore, Head of Strategy, CaseCapture.
NHS teams are under pressure. Could modern digital approaches to clinical audit be a quick win to help relieve just some of the burden? Could organisations better understand performance at such busy times? And could compliance with new CQUINs be supported in the process?

A glance at the mainstream media headlines on almost any day in recent months is enough to get an idea of the demands facing many thousands of people working in the NHS.

Whether they are dealing with growing backlogs, emergency handovers, a workforce crisis, or pressures that remain from flu and Covid, to name just a few challenges, NHS professionals are probably under the most pressure they have ever faced.

Yet 2023 has already been a year where a significant number of people have taken their important time to speak to me about clinical audit, which it appears many want to modernise with urgency.

Placing clinical audit on the digital agenda

One manager I spoke to told me how a team of five people were needed to try to extract insights from spreadsheets used to record clinical audits.

It is probably not an uncommon scenario. Digitisation is a key priority in the NHS for good reasons. For clinical audit - a crucial process used to understand clinical performance and the quality of services provided to patients - the digitisation picture is mixed. A significant amount of healthcare providers rely on spreadsheets, both to generate and interrogate data. This process can be manually intensive - both for frontline teams inputting data, and for anyone trying to understand what the data is telling them.

My recent conversations suggest that many want to change this situation with urgency and more consistently make clinical audit part of the digitisation agenda. They want to follow the example set by colleagues in hospitals where clinical audit is captured through more modern digital tools as standard, tools specifically built for the task like CaseCapture. Many clinicians are already familiar with this platform, as it underpins prominent national audits managed by royal colleges and others.

Addressing pressure

The reasons for change now are significant. People want to help to reduce some of the stresses faced by frontline teams who simply don’t have time to manage cumbersome spreadsheets; and to provide those teams with mobile easier to use alternatives. And they want to address the need for quality, reliable and relevant data, in order to highlight where quality improvement is needed, where safety concerns might exist, and where service transformation might progress. In addition, investment in these tools, which are inexpensive, could lead to speedy financial returns whilst helping to release time to care. The argument is compelling as a quick win for helping extremely busy people, and addressing what might sometimes be an overlooked digital opportunity.

NHS organisations carry out many audits. Some are compulsory and help to inform national understanding of specific services. But other locally led audits are about more than meeting data requirements for central bodies. They can show organisations at a local and granular level opportunities to improve their services for the better, to create efficiencies, and to monitor compliance with clinical best practice. As one audit manager recently told me - they are an opportunity to measure things that can make all the difference for patients.

With the right technology supporting easier and more impactful ways of capturing and analysing data, audit could help in other ways too.

Help with CQUINs?

The early weeks of 2023 saw NHS England release new guidance around Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) indicators and metrics. In the document 17 CQUINS set out priority areas, where NHS England expects to see improvement in the next year. This includes everything from CQUINS designed to reduce pressure ulcers, through to metrics and indicators around malnutrition, or the diagnosis and treatment of lower leg wounds, for example.

CQUINs form part of the method for calculating annual payments for NHS trusts - and so measuring compliance has both clinical and financial implications for healthcare providers.

Data required for performance against some of the CQUINS is already likely to be covered by existing national data reporting requirements. However, NHS England also makes clear that for others, local data is required.

Effective audit systems could help in the collection of data, and potentially could make that data even more valuable locally.

Supporting quality care and efficiency

Clinical audit is fundamentally about delivering efficient and quality healthcare. But the process itself doesn't need to be a burden. The technology exists to make audit easier and more meaningful, especially for the busy people keeping our health service running.

Most Popular Now

AI in Personalized Cancer Medicine: New …

The application of AI in precision oncology has so far been largely confined to the development of new drugs and had only limited impact on the personalisation of therapies. New...

AI can Predict Brain Cancer Patients…

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can predict whether adult patients with brain cancer will survive more than eight months after receiving radiotherapy treatment. The use of the AI to successfully predict patient outcomes...

Max Planck Institute for Informatics and…

The Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Google deepen their strategic research partnership. With additional financial support from the U.S. IT company, the "Saarbrücken Research Center for Visual Computing, Interaction...

JMIR Medical Informatics Invites Submiss…

JMIR Publications has announced a new section titled, "AI Language Models in Health Care" in JMIR Medical Informatics. This leading peer-reviewed journal is indexed in PubMed and has a unique...

Paper Calls for Patient-First Regulation…

Ever wonder if the latest and greatest artificial intelligence (AI) tool you read about in the morning paper is going to save your life? A new study published in JAMA...

Could ChatGPT Help or Hurt Scientific Re…

Since its introduction to the public in November 2022, ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence system, has substantially grown in use, creating written stories, graphics, art and more with just a short...

Evaluating the Performance of AI-Based L…

A new study evaluates an artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithm for autocontouring prior to radiotherapy in head and neck cancer. Manual contouring to pinpoint the area of treatment requires significant time...

Making AI a Partner in Neuroscientific D…

The past year has seen major advances in Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT. The ability of these models to interpret and produce human text sources (and other sequence...

Chapman Scientists Code ChatGPT to Desig…

Generative artificial intelligence platforms, from ChatGPT to Midjourney, grabbed headlines in 2023. But GenAI can do more than create collaged images and help write emails - it can also design...

DMEA nova Award: Wanted - Visionary Solu…

9 - 11 April 2024, Berlin, Germany. The DMEA nova Award is being presented at DMEA 2024 for the first time. The award honours a digital health startup for an outstanding...

New Digital Therapy Reduces Anxiety and …

A therapist-guided digital cognitive behavioural therapy reduced distress in 89 per cent of participants living with long-term physical health conditions, a new King's College London study finds. Researchers at the Institute...

Europe's Digital Health Industry Me…

9 - 11 April 2024, Berlin, Germany. In just over two months, from 9 to 11 April 2024, DMEA, Europe's leading event for digitalisation of healthcare, will gather digital health experts...