More efficient health system would save lives, money

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More efficient health system would save lives, money

April 10, 2014—Today, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released a new study on the efficiency of the Canadian health system. Measuring the Level and Determinants of Health System Efficiency in Canada examines why health system efficiency varies across Canada, what could be done about it, and what a perfectly efficient health system might look like.

The study estimates the average level of inefficiency to be between 18% and 35%. This means that up to 24,500 premature deaths could be prevented every year—without additional spending.

“An efficient health system gets the best health outcomes for what it spends. We found there are opportunities to improve health system efficiency in Canada by tackling existing organizational and delivery challenges as well as population-level factors,” says Jeremy Veillard, Vice President, Research and Analysis, at CIHI. “The combination of these interventions could substantially reduce premature deaths in Canada, at no additional cost.”

How can we improve health system efficiency?

CIHI’s study found that, to improve efficiency, there needs to be a focus on both the management and delivery of health services and on preventing the onset of illness in the first place.

CIHI’s report suggests that health system inefficiencies are reflective of factors such as smoking, physical inactivity and multiple chronic conditions and that the health system could be more efficient by taking steps to reduce the number of hospital readmissions while using hospitals more effectively.

Other key findings

Efficiency is influenced by factors that are outside the control of health care managers and professionals, such as ethnicity and level of education of the population. Some health authorities need to spend more to achieve the same health outcomes because they operate in more challenging environments.