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J Family Community Med. 2009 Jan;16(1):11-7.

Guideline implementation in clinical practice: use of statistical process control charts as visual feedback devices.

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Department of Family & Community Medicine, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.



To use statistical control charts in a series of audits to improve the acceptance and consistant use of guidelines, and reduce the variations in prescription processing in primary health care.


A series of audits were done at the main satellite of King Saud Housing Family and Community Medicine Center, National Guard Health Affairs, Riyadh, where three general practitioners and six pharmacists provide outpatient care to about 3000 residents. Audits were carried out every fortnight to calculate the proportion of prescriptions that did not conform to the given guidelines of prescribing and dispensing. Simple random samples of thirty were chosen from a sampling frame of all prescriptions given in the two previous weeks. Thirty six audits were carried out from September 2004 to February 2006. P-charts were constructed around a parametric specification of non-conformities not exceeding 25%.


Of the 1081 prescriptions, the most frequent non-conformity was failure to write generic names (35.5%), followed by the failure to record patient's weight (16.4%), pharmacist's name (14.3%), duration of therapy (9.1%), and the use of inappropriate abbreviations (6.0%). Initially, 100% of prescriptions did not conform to the guidelines, but within a period of three months, this came down to 40%.


A process of audits in the context of statistical process control is necessary for any improvement in the implementation of guidelines in primary care. Statistical process control charts are an effective means of visual feedback to the care providers.


Audit; Guidelines; Implementation; Nonconformity; Prescribing; Prescription; Proportion nonconforming; Statistical Process Control; p-charts

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