Dental audits don't have to be a tick boxing exercise, they offer an opportunity to improve the efficient running of a practice and ease the strain on busy workloads.
1) Find a topic relevant to you
This is an opportunity for dentists to identify something that they want to improve within their working day. Don’t fall into the trap of auditing something without knowing the genuine benefit that it can achieve.
Claire Renton, MDDUS dental adviser, says: 'It could be those "failed to attend" patient appointments. All dentists have had a situation where they have set up for a crown prep with impression trays at the ready, retraction cord found, X-rays checked and the patient doesn’t turn up.'
A project about patients failing to attend might be the answer. This could save the practice money and fewer missed appointments leads to greater availability for other patients.
2) Setting standards
The next step in the audit process is to define the criteria and standard. An example of this is with X-rays.
Many dentists are familiar with the concept that 70% of X-rays should be grade one, 20% grade two and 10% grade three.
Instead set yourself targets and aim high, set a target of 100% to be grade one X-rays. Keep in mind that these high standards should always be achievable.
3) Data collection
Dentists must decide what data they are going to collect.
One way to do this is by producing a spreadsheet and filling in the data as you go.
All data collected should be verifiable so although you might want to exclude personal data (eg patient names), it is a good idea to develop a code so data can be checked at a later date.
4) Making the change
Once an audit has been submitted for approval and funding, the next step is to establish a baseline for your audit.
You can do this by collecting the initial round of data and using this as a comparable baseline to the standard you would like to achieve.
Mrs Renton, at MDDUS, continues: 'At this point, you’re now in a position to make the change. This is the step that requires the most thought. Making the right change in the right way will make all the difference. If any actions involve other staff in the practice, then get them on board with your idea and encourage them to seen how practice life and patient care will be enhanced.'
It is important to check the change once you have made it. Therefore you will have to undertake another round of data collection to prove that things have improved. You should wait at least three months before you carry out the second round of data collection, although this can vary depending on the project.
5) Final verdict
The final stage involves analysing the second round of data and seeing if you have met the target of your audit. Hopefully the improvements made will reflect in the running of your dental practice and benefit patients and the rest of the dental team.