New indicator measuring frequent and prolonged use of hospital services now available

May 26, 2016 — In any given year, thousands of Canadians visit the hospital for care — some more often than others. According to a new indicator, High Users of Hospital Beds, 1 in 20 Canadians who were hospitalized in 2014–2015 returned 3 or more times within the year and spent more than 30 days in care.

This is the first time that the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is publicly releasing data on high users through the In Depth section of our Your Health System web tool. The indicator provides health care decisions-makers with important insights on both frequent and prolonged hospital visits.

“This measure will help hospital leaders understand the number and profile of patients who are most often in hospital,” said Kira Leeb, director of Health System Performance at CIHI. “Knowing more about these patients at the local level can help reduce the use of hospital beds by improving community services and coordination of care.”

Characteristics of high users of hospital beds

The 2014–2015 results indicate that 66% of Canada’s high users were seniors (age 65 and older) with a wide range of medical conditions. The top reasons for repeat hospitalizations included heart failure (8%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (7.5%) and palliative care (6%). These remained fairly consistent across the provinces.

Among Canadians age 18 to 64, the largest group of high users was patients seeking treatment for mental illnesses (20%), such as schizophrenia.

An in-depth analysis of CIHI’s data shows that the majority of high users were from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Your Health System indicator update

In addition to releasing results for High Users of Hospitals Beds, CIHI has updated the results for a number of indicators available in the tool. Some highlights include the following: 

  • 4 patients per 1,000 developed in-hospital sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection, in 2014–2015.
  • About 1 in 4 (26.7%) children are vulnerable in at least 1 area of development at school entry (age 5), according to the Children Vulnerable in Areas of Early Development indicator, which measures 5 areas of child development, including physical health, emotional well-being, language and social skills.
    • We have expanded coverage of this indicator to include results from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories for the first time.
  • In the last 5 years, the rate for the Low-Risk Caesarean Sections indicator has remained unchanged, at 14%.
  • The result for the indicator Obstetric Patients Readmitted to Hospital is 2 in every 100 patients.

A close look at results over time shows that results have remained relatively stable over the last 5 years. There continued to be wide variation between the provincial and regional results.

Your Health System is a one-of-a-kind tool offering an array of health system data on hospitals, long-term care facilities and the health of Canadians across the country. Your Health System is designed to assist health care leaders at all levels determine where to focus improvement efforts.

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