Research paper| Volume 26, ISSUE 2, P132-141, June 2023

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A comparison of prospective observations and chart audits for measuring quality of care of musculoskeletal injuries in the emergency department

Published:September 22, 2022DOI:



      Accurate and efficient data collection is crucial for effective evaluation of quality of care. The objective of this study is to compare two methods of data collection used to score quality indicators for musculoskeletal injury management in Emergency departments: prospective observation, and chart audit.


      An analysis was undertaken of data collected from 633 patients who presented with a musculoskeletal injury to eight emergency departments in Queensland, Australia in 2016–17. Twenty-two quality indicators were scored using both prospective observation and chart audit data for each occasion of service. Quality indicators were included if they were originally published with both collection methods. Analyses were performed to compare firstly, the quality indicator denominators, and secondly, the quality indicator trigger rates, scored using each collection method. Chi Square statistics were used to identify significant differences.


      Prospectively collected data scored quality indicator denominators significantly (p value<0.05) more often than chart audit data for five (22.7 %) of the 22 quality indicators. The remaining 17 quality indicators (77.3 %) showed no statistical differences. When comparing quality indicator trigger rates, 16 (72.7 %) had significantly different results between methods with 12 (54.5 %) scoring higher using prospective data and four (18.2 %) with chart audit data. The remaining six quality indicators (27.3 %) in this comparison showed no significant difference between chart and prospective data.


      Quality indicators including aspects of care associated with patient safety, and those relying on clinician written orders or forms were adequately scored using either prospective observation or chart audit data. Whereas quality indicators relying on time-sensitive information, elements of a social history, general physical exams and patient education and advice scored higher using prospective observation data collection.


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