Clinical audit

A systematic process for setting and monitoring standards of clinical care. Whereas ‘guidelines’ define what the best clinical practice should be, ‘audit’ investigates whether best practice is being carried out. Clinical audit can be described as a cycle or spiral. Within the cycle there are stages that follow a systematic process of establishing best practice, measuring care against specific criteria, taking action to improve care, and monitoring to sustain improvement. The spiral suggests that as the process continues, each cycle aspires to a higher level of quality.