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Patient Safety: Achieving a New Standard for Care
tion is detecting most adverse events that occur. The term “audit” can describe a series of activities ranging from unstructured self-assessments (National Quality Forum) to comprehensive reviews of structure, process, and outcomes (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations). For patient safety data standards, audit means independent review of injury case finding, evaluation, and classification using explicit criteria for the structure and function of the data systems and for the review process itself. The aim of a data system audit should be to provide assurance that the numbers reported are reasonably complete, accurate, and reproducible and thus useful for shared analysis and comparison. By design, such an audit does not address how a health care organization responds to the injury data obtained or produce judgments about safety performance. In other industries, such audit assurance is an essential element of transparency and a potent antidote to misrepresentation, cheating, and corruption. Research is needed to develop fully functional quality-of-care audit criteria and to determine how such systems might be administered.
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