Hospital and ambulatory care are vital parts of the health care system. Typically, the federal government establishes the national health care standards that jurisdictions must meet. However, in most parts of the country, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for providing hospital services, as well as acute and some ambulatory care services.

At CIHI, we collect and report on clinical, administrative and financial data from hospitals and ambulatory care clinics that provide inpatient and outpatient care in Canada.

Information about hospital care

Emergency and ambulatory care
Medical care delivered on an outpatient basis. It is one of the largest-volume patient activities in Canada, making it a key component of the continuum of health services in Canada.

Acute care
Acute inpatient care provides necessary treatment for a disease or severe episode of illness for a short period of time, with the goal of discharging patients as soon as they are stable.

Continuing care
Serves people who may not be ready for discharge from hospital but who no longer need acute care services. Also known as extended care, chronic care or complex continuing care, this type of hospital care provides ongoing professional services to a diverse population with complex health needs.

Care for both short-stay and long-stay rehabilitation patients.


Acute and Ambulatory Care Data Content Standard

CIHI is leading an initiative to standardize acute and ambulatory care data across the country, in alignment with Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial electronic health record (EHR) or e-health programs.

Data standards such as this will ensure the consistent collection of comparable and measurable data at the point of care, maximizing investments in e-health technologies and generating actionable data. The result will be predictive, preventive and population health–based information that can improve clinical outcomes, reduce costs and increase the sustainability of quality health care.

The Acute and Ambulatory Care Data Content Standard includes the data elements, data element definitions, high-level specifications and valid values that must be submitted to CIHI’s Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) and National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS) data holdings. The standard is focused on hospital inpatient, emergency department (ED), ambulatory/community clinic and day surgery data requirements.

Acute and Ambulatory Care Data Content Standard (Feb. 2016)

Alternate Level of Care Clinical Designation Guidelines 

Alternate level of care (ALC) is used in hospitals to describe patients who occupy a bed but do not require the intensity of services provided in that care setting. 

CIHI collaborated with system leaders to develop Definitions and Guidelines to Support ALC Designation in Acute Inpatient Care (PDF) with selected health regions in Western Canada. These guidelines provide a common understanding of ALC definitions and designation standards. CIHI is working with stakeholders to broaden adoption of the guidelines in other regions of Canada.

An implementation tool kit is available and includes