OBJECTIVES--To survey audit activity in primary care and determine which practice factors are associated with completed audit; to survey the quality of completed audit projects. DESIGN--From April 1992 to June 1993 a team from the medical audit advisory group visited all general practices; a research assistant visited each practice to study the best audit project. Data were collected in structured interviews. SETTING--Staffordshire, United Kingdom. SUBJECTS--All 189 general practices. MAIN MEASURES--Audit activity using Oxford classification system. Quality of best audit project by assessing choice of topic; participation of practice staff; setting of standards; methods of data collection and presentation of results; whether a plan to make changes resulted from the audit; and whether changes led to the set standards being achieved. RESULTS--Audit information was available from 169 practices (89%). 44(26%) practices had carried out at least one full audit; 40(24%) had not started audit. Mean scores with the Oxford classification system were significantly higher with the presence of a practice manager (2.7(95% confidence interval 2.4 to 2.9) v 1.2(0.7 to 1.8), p < 0.0001) and with computerisation (2.8(2.5 to 3.1) v 1.4 (0.9 to 2.0), p < 0.0001), organised notes (2.6(2.1 to 3.0) v 1.7(7.2 to 2.2), p = 0.03), being a training practice (3.5(3.2 to 3.8) v 2.1(1.8 to 2.4), p < 0.0001), and being a partnership (2.8(2.6 to 3.0) v 1.5(1.1 to 2.0), p < 0.0001). Standards had been set in 62 of the 71 projects reviewed. Data were collected prospectively in 36 projects and retrospectively in 35. 16 projects entailed taking samples from a study population and 55 from the whole population. 50 projects had a written summary. Performance was less than the standards set or expected in 56 projects. 62 practices made changes as a result of the audit. 35 of the 53 that had reviewed the changes found that the original standards had been reached. CONCLUSIONS--Evaluation of audit in primary care should include evaluation of the methods used, whether deficiencies were identified, and whether changes were implemented to resolve any problems found.
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