Background: Audit and feedback continues to be widely used as a strategy to improve professional practice. It appears logical that healthcare professionals would be prompted to modify their practice if given feedback that their clinical practice was inconsistent with that of their peers or accepted guidelines. Yet, audit and feedback has not been found to be consistently effective.
Objectives: To assess the effects of audit and feedback on the practice of healthcare professionals and patient outcomes.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group's register up to January 2001. This was supplemented with searches of MEDLINE and reference lists, which did not yield additional relevant studies.
Selection criteria: Randomised trials of audit and feedback (defined as any summary of clinical performance over a specified period of time) that reported objectively measured professional practice in a healthcare setting or healthcare outcomes.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed study quality. Quantitative (meta-regression), visual and qualitative analyses were undertaken.
Main results: We included 85 studies, 48 of which have been added to the previous version of this review. There were 52 comparisons of dichotomous outcomes from 47 trials with over 3500 health professionals that compared audit and feedback to no intervention. The adjusted RDs of non-compliance with desired practice varied from 0.09 (a 9% absolute increase in non-compliance) to 0.71 (a 71% decrease in non-compliance) (median = 0.07, inter-quartile range = 0.02 to 0.11). The one factor that appeared to predict the effectiveness of audit and feedback across studies was baseline non-compliance with recommended practice.
Reviewer's conclusions: Audit and feedback can be effective in improving professional practice. When it is effective, the effects are generally small to moderate. The absolute effects of audit and feedback are more likely to be larger when baseline adherence to recommended practice is low.