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Does telling people what they have been doing change what they do? A systematic review of the effects of audit and feedback

Abstract

Background: Many people advocate audit and feedback as a strategy for improving professional practice. The main results of an update of a Cochrane review on the effects of audit and feedback are reported.

Data sources: The Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group’s register up to January 2004 was searched. Randomised trials of audit and feedback that reported objectively measured professional practice in a healthcare setting or healthcare outcomes were included.

Review methods: Data were independently extracted and the quality of studies were assessed by two reviewers. Quantitative, visual and qualitative analyses were undertaken.

Main results: 118 trials are included in the review. In the primary analysis, 88 comparisons from 72 studies were included that compared any intervention in which audit and feedback was a component to no intervention. For dichotomous outcomes, the median-adjusted risk difference of compliance with desired practice was 5% (interquartile range 3–11). For continuous outcomes, the median-adjusted percentage change relative to control was 16% (interquartile range 5–37). Low baseline compliance with recommended practice and higher intensity of audit and feedback appeared to predict the effectiveness of audit and feedback.

Conclusions: Audit and feedback can be effective in improving professional practice. The effects are generally small to moderate. The absolute effects of audit and feedback are likely to be larger when baseline adherence to recommended practice is low and intensity of audit and feedback is high.

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