Virtual Audits Are Possible! And a Quality Training Program is the perfect quality system to go first.

What began as a back up scenario in the beginning of March 2020, became a reality at the end of June.  My client and I successfully executed a virtual audit.  Here’s what we did.

Mutual Agreement: We both wanted to achieve our 2020 goals.

  • We both said yes to the idea, referring to our previous discussion.
  • We listed the stages of the audit at a high level first referring to the HPISC Audit Plan Methodology.
  • Then we asked each other, how can this stage be conducted using available technology. And for each subsequent stage.
  • Once we chose the technology, we asked what else has to be in place in order to “replicate” what happens in on-site audits.

Testing, testing and then some more testing.

  • Our 1st test revealed that I could not connect to the meeting room successfully.  So we tested Plan B (Skype for Business) but I learned that most of the folks had already moved over to MS Teams.  So my assignment was to find a way to make MS Teams work for me.  I discovered that MS Teams works brilliantly on my iPad.  2 clicks and I was in the meeting room lobby.  With that problem solved, I found the reason why my laptop wasn’t able to connect.  There was a workaround if I needed to share my desktop or file screen. But the number of steps was too many to be able to jump from one interview to the next.  So, I stuck with my iPad (2clicks to an interview).
  • We also discovered that my Box file-sharing account needed a password reset.  That was an easy fix.  Once, I was able to navigate to the specially prepared folders, the document review and preparation stage of the audit actually began.
Infographic: Virtual Audits Are Possible!

Scheduling the Interviews Way in Advance.

  • My host scheduled all the interviews 2-3 weeks out so that all the interviews could be conducted in the same week; just like an on-site audit.  We were able to accommodate one interview reschedule the week prior. And we were also able to accommodate a request to continue a discussion over lunch on Day 2.
  • Unlike a conference room where some interviews run over the time and the next interviewees awkwardly interrupt the discussion, we created unique appointments with wait time in the video conference lobby.  All discussions remained secure within the unique meeting ID number.  We decided not to record the sessions.  This would provide a more authentic experience.  Besides, we don’t normally record in the physical conference room.  Why would we record just because we can?
  • We scheduled both the Opening Meeting and the Close-Out Meeting to occur in the same week as well. The Opening Meeting was a huge success.  Not only did it test the technology again with more folks on the call, but it allowed everyone to meet me and we all introduced each other.  Video cams were optional, but most folks turned theirs on.  Mine was always on.  During the individual interviews, again the video cam was optional. 
  • Like a physical on-site audit, the virtual Close-Out meeting served the same purpose.  It signaled that the interviews were done and the next steps were discussed.  We encouraged participants to share their experiences with the video interview and any significant reflections.

Managing the Follow Ups

  • We managed the following requests with a combination of email, MS Team video conversation for longer explanations, and additional file-sharing in Box; appropriately labeled for ease of navigation.
  • The report is usually written remotely and sent or shared via the FTP file server.  No need to change this activity.

The Tour?

  • For Quality Training System, I don’t conduct a walking tour of the facility, so this was not a factor in our virtual plan.

Take Aways:

What I thought would be the biggest barrier meaning the interviews turned out to be my favorite part.  It was like my interviewees were sitting across the desk.  At the end of each day, my host and I debriefed. I could honestly say, I had conducted an interview; even for the few who had their videos turned off.  I recommend discussing the expectation for video cams in advance. 

I had previous experience using MS Teams to manage Front Room / Back Room chat channels during a PAI (Pre-Approval Inspection) but did not use the video conference for obvious reasons. The quality of the video and audio connection was amazing!  And miraculously for us, I did not lose connectivity at all during the 110-degree heat index days during the interviews.  (I live in Florida).

What really made it possible:

  1. My host is very tech-savvy.
  2. Covid-19 forced all of us to get comfortable with video conferencing.  By the time of this audit, folks were well trained in their platform.
  3. Box is so easy to use.
  4. Everyone was cooperative, on time, and aligned with the goal of executing a successful virtual audit.

Would love to hear from others what their experiences are like and/or concerns.  

Looking for a print out of this post or a copy of the infographic?

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.