On countless occasions over the years someone from a lab, hospital or other healthcare facility, or even a school has reached out to inquire if there is an internal audit software available to assist them in preparation for an external quality assessment. More often than not, these folks are new to the process and on the verge of scrambling to pull their act together a few weeks before the scheduled onsite visit.
It reminds me of my oldest two sons who regularly ask me to help them develop a self-study guide for chapters x,y, and z of their history book the night before an exam. They can read the textbook over and over, but it helps if they are able to frame the material as questions and answers.
Many organizations seasoned in the culture of compliance and continuous improvement have figured out that preparing for an audit/inspection of quality, safety or risk assessment requires the development of internal ‘self-study guides’ for routine reference. Some of the folks I work with have offered a number of insights:
- Gather and organize the standards or criteria into small segments or focus areas. We hear this all the time, break large projects down in to smaller tasks. This gives you the ability to achieve quick wins and also get a good sense of the structure of the standards themselves.
- If the certification body or accrediting organization has not done so already, frame the standards as questions that can be answered. This not only forces familiarity with the standards themselves, but may more clearly define what evidence needs to be gathered. For example, many sets of regulations include a section near the beginning about basic organization and structure of the business. A question you might ask yourself is “Do we have an organizational chart?” and “Does the organizational chart reflect our current structure?”
- Gather evidence. So you say your quality policies are reviewed by management? What evidence exists that proves this to be the case? If none exists, you have room for improvement. Create a policy and a signoff sheet and organize it as evidence.
- Put a recurring quality assessment meeting on the calendar with no end date. Continuous improvement is a project that never ends. It evolves, it changes. It may start as peaks and valleys but it can become a steady learning experience.
Some of the larger accreditation and certification bodies invest in quality management systems that may include a client portal and/or the availability of online self-assessment tools that place all the resources you may need at your fingertips. For those that do not, internal audit software can be helpful in organizing all of the required criteria and evidence. Do the legwork up front to define your internal procedures for meeting the standards, as the software is only as good as the information you put in to it.
If you would like to become better equipped to conduct internal audits or self-assessments, or you are an accreditation or certification organization and would like to deliver such tools to your clients, don’t hesitate to contact me.