• A health indicator is a measure designed to summarize information about a given priority topic in population health or health system performance.
  • Health indicators provide comparable and actionable information across different geographic, organizational or administrative boundaries and/or can track progress over time.

Health indicators support provinces/territories, regional health authorities and institutions as they monitor the health of their populations and track how well their local health systems function.

They help in monitoring key performance dimensions described in the Health System Performance Measurement Framework, which provides a common approach for managing health system performance across the country.

What’s the difference between metrics, indicators and performance indicators?

The figure and table below describe a health indicator and illustrate how a health indicator is related to different types of health measures. Health system performance indicators are types of health indicators, and health indicators are types of metrics.

Measure type Description Examples
Metric Information that is quantifiable and is reported as a number. Has value and many uses, but cannot be compared.
  • Total Health Expenditures
  • Inpatient Hospitalizations for Medical Assistance in Dying
  • Number of Emergency Department Visits Due to Opioid Poisoning
Health indicator Puts metrics into some kind of context, usually using a ratio (per X) and is designed to ensure comparability (e.g., by being risk-adjusted or standardized). Directionality may or may not exist.
  • Cost of a Standard Hospital Stay
  • Cardiac Revascularization Rate
  • Proportion of Physicians in Rural Areas
Health system performance indicator A health indicator that has a desired direction (e.g., lower is better).
  • 30-Day Surgical Readmission Rate
  • Percentage of Residents in Daily Physical Restraints
  • Hospitalizations Entirely Attributable to Alcohol

Health indicator reporting

Our indicators are reported through a number of tools, including

  • Your Health System — An interactive web tool providing health system decision-makers and Canadians with current results for indicators they need. The tool features key indicators for acute care hospitals, long-term care facilities and health regions.
  • Health Indicators e-Publication — CIHI has partnered with Statistics Canada to produce more than 80 indicators for the health regions, provinces and territories. This free web-based product provides access to a large inventory of regional health indicators.
  • Additional Acute Care indicators — 3 additional indicators for acute care hospitals, not available through Your Health System.
  • Health Indicators — A series of annual reports with selected indicators that measure health status, non-medical determinants of health, health system performance, and community and health system characteristics. Selected indicators include interpretive analysis. (Discontinued, last report is Health Indicators 2013.)
  • Wait Time Indicators for Priority Procedures in Canada — Progress on reducing wait times can be tracked using interactive graphics, which display numerous years of provincial data.
  • OECD International Comparisons — Use CIHI’s interactive web tool to see how provinces compare with OECD countries on 19 quality of care indicators.

Methodology of health indicators

Visit CIHI’s Indicator Library to see definitions, methodologies and which products contain different indicator results.

Key projects about health indicators

Shared Health Priorities project

As part of the Shared Health Priorities project, the federal/provincial/territorial ministers of health committed to work collectively and with CIHI to develop a focused set of common indicators to measure pan-Canadian progress toward improving access to mental health and addictions services, and home and community care. 

Cardiac Care Quality Indicators project

The Cardiac Care Quality Indicators project provides pan-Canadian comparable information on outcomes related to selected cardiac interventions. Cardiac care centres can use this information to support monitoring and quality improvement efforts.

National consensus conferences on health indicators

In October 2014, CIHI, in partnership with Statistics Canada, held its fourth in a series of national consensus conferences. The previous one took place in 2009.

These conferences were convened to develop nationwide priorities on the indicators used by CIHI and Statistics Canada to report on

  • The health of Canadians
  • The factors that affect our health
  • The performance of the health system

View the reports