The most common health care experienced by Canadians is primary health care. For most people in any year, this is the first point of contact with the health care system—typically inside the offices of family physicians and general practitioners. Not everyone visits a hospital, but most see a family doctor.
CIHI is helping those who plan, manage and deliver primary health care with tools they can use to measure performance. This month, we tore the wrapping off of two sets of updated indicators designed to do just that. Policy-makers can use one indicator set to measure how the health care system is performing. And those who provide care can use the other set to measure how well their practices are doing.
CIHI, with the advice of stakeholders, identified and updated 51 priority indicators that measure factors designed to make the primary health care system more efficient and effective. The 51 indicators, and information on how to calculate them, are now available online for download.
Measuring performance at the health system and practice levels can help people make decisions about delivering the best possible service. Any practice can download the indicators that it feels are most important and use them to measure vital aspects of care—such as appropriate treatments and follow-up to ensure patients receive the specific type of care they need.
For government officials who need to track how the system is performing overall, CIHI’s indicators can help enable sound policy and planning. The primary health system indicators can track changes over time, evaluate current strategies and policies, and see how regions are performing and how they compare with others. Standardized indicators allow performance to be measured and compared across Canada.
“Having access to a set of updated, relevant pan-Canadian indicators will enable us to measure and report on our progress in improving primary health care delivery and, ultimately, improved health outcomes for Nova Scotians,” said Lisa Grandy, Director of Primary Health Care, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.
Primary health care is a major focus for CIHI, and this indicator update project is part of our overall
Primary Health Care Data and Information program. We’ve been busy developing practice-based surveys and data standards for electronic medical records and building the Voluntary Reporting System—an important emerging source of information about primary health care.
“Over a billion dollars has been spent reforming the provision of primary care services in Canada, but we don’t really know which of these investments work,” said Dr. William Hogg, Professor and Senior Research Advisor, University of Ottawa. “Proper performance measurement and reporting will allow better decision-making and resource allocation.”
So go ahead everyone, put our indicators to use—for the health of all Canadians.