The Science of a Successful Internal Audit Review

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Authored by Kristen Poat, RHIT, CHPC

Meeting face-to-face with any healthcare provider to review internal audit results can be an unsettling task. But, if approached gracefully, it is part of the audit cycle that does not have to be uncomfortable for the auditee or the auditor.

With many years of learning experience in this area, there are a few tips I am going to lend that will hold steady when sitting down one-on-one with a provider to review audit results. This article is meant for auditors newer to the field who are still gaining their footing or seasoned, with a passion for improving their skillset.

Full disclosure, I cannot take credit for all these tips myself. Many were learned or further refined from a great mentor of mine who led me into my love for auditing. This mentor taught me the basic “science” behind combining education and supportive feedback to make the best out of a meeting with a healthcare provider and ensuring that everyone’s time was well spent.

First tip: Start the session off light. Sitting down for the actual audit review is the most awkward part of the job, especially if this is the first-time meeting with the provider whom the audit was performed for. I usually start off with something like “I promise to make this as painless as possible.” A good laugh and reassurance that this is not easy for either party can make a world of difference in the land of first impressions.

Second tip: Set the tone of the meeting: You are here to support the provider and provide guidance. “Auditor” does not have to be a big, bad, scary word. Auditors study guidelines and keep up with constantly changing regulations so our healthcare providers have a trusted source for this type of information. We audit to assess risk and correct wrongdoing, whether intentional or not. Audits should not be viewed as personal attacks or invasive investigations to embarrass or exploit professionals who just want to take diligent care of their patients. For every meeting, every time, the tone should be clearly established that the auditor’s role is to support and guide in this alliance.

Third tip: Position yourself at the same level as the provider. If possible, sit next to the provider to review findings together. Talking down to the provider from a podium or from across the table exhibits professionalism but is also less personal. In my experience, providers who are spoken to as if they are people instead of students with an unworthy grade respond better, listen better, and are more willing to positively accept advice.

Fourth tip: Do not give answers unless 100% sure the answer is correct. One of my personal worst nightmares is handing out bad advice. When in doubt, take down the question as an action item from the meeting, do your due diligence on the research end and come back with concrete facts to support a definitive answer.

Fifth tip: Thank the provider for their time. It is highly likely that the session is currently cutting into the providers personal time, or time that could have been spent in patient care. Let the provider know you understand their time is valuable and you appreciate it being spent with you. On top of that, ensuring that the time spent is productive and useful is also important. I like to keep this thought in mind to keep myself aligned with the goal of the session: If the provider were to give me a review of the interaction and content provided during the meeting, would I earn a passing score? The goal is 100% satisfaction from both participants.

Sixth and final tip: Follow up with action items within 24 hours of the meeting at the latest. This helps keep all information discussed fresh and reinforces the reliability of the auditor and importance of education.

The title of this article may seem misleading after reading the tips above. You, in fact, do not need a science kit to perform an internal provider audit review. A positive mindset, establishing the right tone, and relying on your wealth of knowledge as an auditor are great starters in conjunction with the tips above to close the loop on a provider audit and make the experience a success for all those involved.