A clinical audit programme for diagnostic radiology: the approach adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a mandate to assist member states in areas of human health and particularly in the use of radiation for diagnosis and treatment.
Clinical audit is seen as an essential tool to assist in assuring the quality of radiation medicine, particularly in the instance of multidisciplinary audit of diagnostic radiology. Consequently, an external clinical audit programme has been developed by the IAEA to examine the structure and processes existent at a clinical site, with the basic objectives of:
(1) improvement in the quality of patient care;
(2) promotion of the effective use of resources;
(3) enhancement of the provision and organisation of clinical services;
(4) further professional education and training.
These objectives apply in four general areas of service delivery, namely quality management and infrastructure, patient procedures, technical procedures and education, training and research.
In the IAEA approach, the audit process is initiated by a request from the centre seeking the audit. A three-member team, comprising a radiologist, medical physicist and radiographer, subsequently undertakes a 5-d audit visit to the clinical site to perform the audit and write the formal audit report.
Preparation for the audit visit is crucial and involves the local clinical centre completing a form, which provides the audit team with information on the clinical centre. While all main aspects of clinical structure and process are examined, particular attention is paid to radiation-related activities as described in the relevant documents such as the IAEA Basic Safety Standards, the Code of Practice for Dosimetry in Diagnostic Radiology and related equipment and quality assurance documentation. It should be stressed, however, that the clinical audit does not have any regulatory function.
The main purpose of the IAEA approach to clinical audit is one of promoting quality improvement and learning. This paper describes the background to the clinical audit programme and the IAEA clinical audit protocol.