Using quality indicators in anaesthesia: feeding back data to improve care

Br J Anaesth. 2012 Jul;109(1):80-91. doi: 10.1093/bja/aes173. Epub 2012 Jun 1.


After recent UK policy developments, considerable attention has been focused upon how clinical specialties measure and report on the quality of care delivered to patients. Defining the right indicators alone is insufficient to close the feedback loop. This narrative review aims to describe and synthesize a diverse body of research relevant to the question of how information from quality indicators can be fed back and used effectively to improve care. Anaesthesia poses certain challenges in the identification of valid outcome indicators sensitive to variations in anaesthetic care. Metrics collected during the immediate post-anaesthetic recovery period, such as patient temperature, patient-reported quality of recovery, and pain and nausea, provide potentially useful information for the anaesthetist, yet this information is not routinely fed back. Reviews of the effects of feeding back performance data to healthcare providers suggest that this may result in small to moderate positive effects upon outcomes and professional practice, with stronger effects where feedback is integrated within a broader quality improvement strategy. The dominant model for use of data within quality improvement is based upon the industrial process control approach, in which care processes are monitored continuously for process changes which are rapidly detectable for corrective action. From this review and experience of implementing these principles in practice, effective feedback from quality indicators is timely, credible, confidential, tailored to the recipient, and continuous. Considerable further work is needed to understand how information from quality indicators can be fed back in an effective way to clinicians and clinical units, in order to support revalidation and continuous improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / standards*
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Perioperative Care
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*