Below are recommendations to take into consideration when both designing and reporting audit & feedback.

Designing Audit & Feedback

From ‘Knowledge Translation in Health Care (Foy & Eccles 2013):

  • Type of format, i.e. verbal, paper or electronic;
  • Frequency and duration, e.g. as a one-off step or continuously and often over a period of time
  • Source, e.g. whether from a supervisor or professional body
  • Content, e.g. information on healthcare processes or patient outcomes, use of identifiers to permit comparisons between individual professionals, teams or facilities
  • Use of various sources to deliver feedback, such as supervisors or professional bodies
  • Context

From the Cochrane Systematic Review (Ivers et al. 2012):

  • Source is a supervisor or colleague
  • Is delivered more than once
  • Is verbal and written
  • Aims to decrease undesirable behavior as opposed to increase desirable behavior
  • Includes explicit targets and action plan

From the SOCIAL Systematic Review  (Tang et al. 2021):

This systematic review provides strong evidence from many studies to suggest the following implications for policy and practice:

  • Social norms interventions1 targeting health workers are effective in both changing the clinical behaviour of health workers and improving outcomes for patients, and should continue to be implemented (102 studies).
  • Credible source (where the target health worker understands that a clinical behaviour has the approval of someone they regard as a credible source) is, on average, effective and should continue to be implemented. It is effective both on its own and as part of a complex intervention (15 studies).
  • Social comparison, where a target health worker is provided with information about the clinical behaviour of their peers, allowing them to make a comparison with their own behaviour, is, on average, effective and should continue to be implemented. It is effective both on its own and as part of a complex intervention, and is more effective than simply providing feedback on the target’s behaviour (81 studies). Social comparison can be enhanced by the use of prompts/cues, such as providing lists of patients to support decision-making (such as those who have test results that warrant investigation), or computerised pop-ups when particular codes are entered into an electronic system). The benefit of prompts and cues may not apply when the behaviour is not well understood by the health worker or they need to learn new skills to undertake it (10 studies).

Social norms interventions can be used to good effect across a wide range of health contexts:

  • They are effective in changing the behaviour of doctors (68 studies) and other health workers (12 studies).
  • They can be used successfully to change a variety of behaviours, such as prescribing (40 studies), ordering and conducting tests (21 studies), managing long-term conditions and improving communication with patients (23 studies).
  • They are suitable for use in both increasing behaviour (e.g. more frequent contact with patients or increase in blood testing for a particular condition) (70 studies) or reducing behaviour (e.g. fewer prescriptions for antibiotics or reduction in the number of unwarranted blood tests) (28 studies).
  • They can be used successfully in both primary (56 studies) and hospital care (27 studies).

Mode of delivery:

  • The source of the intervention can be internal or external.
  • Formats including e-mail (9 studies), written (25 studies), web based (8 studies) and mixed (14 studies) have all been used successfully.

1A social norms intervention seeks to change the clinical behaviour of a target health worker by exposing them to the values, beliefs, attitudes or behaviours of a reference group or person. These social norms interventions can form part of an audit and feedback (A&F) initiative, or may be developed as another behaviour change intervention. These are often interventions with reach: they can be implemented across multiple health workers and settings at low cost, so there is the potential for large absolute gain.


  • Tang, M.Y., Rhodes, S., Powell, R. et al. How effective are social norms interventions in changing the clinical behaviours of healthcare workers? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Implementation Science 16, 8 (2021).
  • Cotterill S, Tang MY, Powell R, Howarth E, McGowan L, Roberts J, Brown B, Rhodes S. Social norms interventions to change clinical behaviour in health workers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Services Delivery Res 2020;8(41)

See also ‘Practice Feedback Interventions: 15 Suggestions for Optimizing Effectiveness (Brehaut et al. 2016)

Reporting Audit & Feedback

From “Reporting and design elements of audit and feedback interventions: a secondary review’ (Colquhoun et al 2016):

Colquhoun et al. suggest that at a minimum, A&F intervention designers should report and justify the following.

  • Who the A&F will be delivered to
  • What information will be delivered
  • When the information will be delivered (in relation to collection of the data)
  • Why the information is being delivered
  • When the information will be delivered
  • How many times is the information delivered

The authors recommend considering all 17 items below when designing an intervention and reporting these items whenever possible

Who1. Was the feedback given to an individual, a group or both
2. Was it given to the person in whom the practice change was desired (eg. healthcare provider vs hospital administrator)
What3. Was there feedback about the processes of care (eg. rate of antibiotic prescription)
4. Was there feedback about patient outcomes
5. Was there feedback about something other than processes of care or patient outcomes (if yes, specified)
6. Was the feedback about individual provider performance
7. Was the feedback about the performance of the provider group
8. Was the feedback about individual patient cases
9. Was the feedback about an aggregate of patient cases
10. Did the feedback identify a specific behaviour(s) to be changed
11. What was the comparison provided in the feedback (specified)
12. Were graphical elements included in the feedback
When13. What was the lag between the time of the audit and the delivery of the feedback (days, weeks, months, years, a mix)
14. What rationale was given for using A&F (specified)
How15. Was the feedback given face to face
16. Were providers explicitly asked to consider the implications the A&F has for their practice
How much17. What was the total number of times the feedback was given (specified)