Best Way to Audit your Dental Practice
Dental Audit Process: Know the Job First
Before embarking on a clinical audit of your dental practice, it’s important to understand exactly what clinically auditing entails. Auditing in this sense is quite different from the fearful implications of an IRS tax audit. In the clinical sense, auditing is more an operation of internal affairs—a self-contained checks and balances system, if you will. These examinations aim to identify service deficiencies as they occur, making any problems much easier to remedy than if they were allowed to fester over time.
A step-by-step auditing process
As any dental practice will entail numerous functions, it’s important to identify one or two topics at a time ripe for auditing. For those who are new to the auditing process, or dental practice in general, it will be important to select not only a topic that is due for inspection, but something that interests the young auditor as well. Chances are good, especially if your practice is just getting off the ground, that you will have some commonalities in patient complaint and criticism.
Next, you must define the criteria and the standards for this particular element of the practice. The standard will be the minimum level of acceptable performance. What is the industry standard of this part of dental practice? How is your practice measuring up?
Set Up the Auditing Rules and Methodology for your Dental Practice
Rules and methodology should now be set for data collection. Data can be collected prospectively (that is, as it happens) or retrospectively (looking back over what has happened). Data collection should be randomized, to eliminate any biases. Additionally, it’s important to incorporate enough data to get an accurate reading of quality. With these rules as a guiding principle, your audit risks a far narrower margin of error.
Once the rules and methods are established, begin collecting data. Review of medical records and patient surveys are primary sources for this data collection. It is important that surveys and other questionnaires reflect the same criteria and methodology outlined earlier.
After compiling an exhaustive set of data, it’s time to begin comparing this information to the industry quality standard. This is where you’ll find the proof in the proverbial pudding. This is when honest reflection is mandatory—you must see the facts as they are, not as you’d like them to be seen.
Upon some reflection regarding the data collected, it’s now time to consult with your partners about the findings, and decide how to implement any necessary change. There is no particular formula for this, as the problems that may arise in this sort of analysis are as varied as the problems your patients come to you to solve. This can also be particularly important if you are a sole owner and are thinking about buying a dental practice with a partner
Last But Not Least!
Finally, and arguably most importantly, the new implementations and revised policy must be enforced and monitored. The entire audit should be repeated periodically (ideally, every six months). Repeating the whole cycle will help to ensure that the new policies are being maintained and adjusted according to need.
The importance and value of audits
Regular self-administered auditing is important, especially if you want to appeal to any searching for a dental practice for sale. For the young dental practitioner, a well-organized audit can be a powerful asset to your career. Publishing your results and findings, and the subsequent dissemination of that data, serves as an immensely useful contribution to the larger dental peer community.