Do we need to assess?

It is vital to assess what we do in practice in order to ensure our practice is moving with the times and adapting and responding to the advances in the profession.

One reason we need to assess is for the basic reasons of clinical governance. The benefits of reflecting on what we are doing and highlighting areas where we can make improvements are far reaching and can range from improved customer satisfaction and patient care, to improved biosecurity practices or financial returns.

In the UK, the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme and the RCVS clinical audit toolkit part 2 ‘Clinical Governance’ state that:

“The practice must have a system in place for monitoring and discussing the clinical outcome of cases and for acting on the results.”

All practices must have:

“… some system for monitoring and discussing the clinical outcome of some common procedures. This may vary from clinical audit reports to notes of clinical discussion meetings but inevitably starts with some form of record keeping.”

The highest level Veterinary Hospitals in the UK must also comply with the following:

“Regular Morbidity and Mortality meetings should be held to discuss the outcome of clinical cases. Hospitals must be able to produce records of such meetings and demonstrate any changes in procedures as a consequence of any resultant action list. Continued monitoring to assess the effectiveness of any changes must be undertaken.”

But it’s not just abiding by standards that drive us to assess what we do. Development of an ethos of reflection on and assessment of our practices is a vital part of developing as a veterinarian in our confidence and competence. A key issue is to develop a practice philosophy that supports EBVM, and, in the areas of assessment, to continually look for areas of improvement. We all want to be better at what we do, so why not use the assessment or audit cycle to try and work out where we can most usefully put our effort?


Practical example: Could we revise our radiography protocols to ensure we get a higher proportion of diagnostic quality images?

As we become more proactive in EBVM, we may go further than identifying areas requiring improvement and be able to proactively establish a system to regularly (continuously or periodically) assess outcomes. We can then use that information to review our treatments, protocols and procedures, for the betterment of ourselves and our veterinary patients.