Objectives Hospital boards are legally responsible for safe healthcare. They need tools to assist them in their task of governing patient safety. Almost every Dutch hospital performs internal audits, but the effectiveness of these audits for hospital governance has never been evaluated. The aim of this study is to evaluate the organisation of internal audits and their effectiveness for hospitals boards to govern patient safety.
Design and setting A mixed-methods study consisting of a questionnaire regarding the organisation of internal audits among all Dutch hospitals (n=89) and interviews with stakeholders regarding the audit process and experienced effectiveness of audits within six hospitals.
Results Response rate of the questionnaire was 76% and 43 interviews were held. In every responding hospital, the internal audits followed the plan–do–check–act cycle. Every hospital used interviews, document analysis and site visits as input for the internal audit. Boards stated that effective aspects of internal audits were their multidisciplinary scope, their structured and indepth approach, the usability to monitor improvement activities and to change hospital policy and the fact that results were used in meetings with staff and boards of supervisors. The qualitative methods (interviews and site visits) used in internal audits enable the identification of soft signals such as unsafe culture or communication and collaboration problems. Reported disadvantages were the low frequency of internal audits and the absence of soft signals in the actual audit reports.
Conclusion This study shows that internal audits are regarded as effective for patient safety governance, as they help boards to identify patient safety problems, proactively steer patient safety and inform boards of supervisors on the status of patient safety. The description of the Dutch internal audits makes these audits replicable to other healthcare organisations in different settings, enabling hospital boards to complement their systems to govern patient safety.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015506, hdl.handle.net/1765/105120
Journal BMJ Open
Citation
van Gelderen, S.C, Zegers, M, Boeijen, W, Westert, G, Robben, P.B.M, & Wollersheim, H.C. (2017). Evaluation of the organisation and effectiveness of internal audits to govern patient safety in hospitals. BMJ Open, 7(7). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015506