CIHI Turns 20

IFimage feb2014 land EN (jpg)

For those who contribute to and benefit from CIHI’s data—analysts, coders, health care providers, researchers, policy-makers and many others—it’s hard to imagine a time when this organization didn’t exist.

But in 1988, the possibility of a body dedicated to improving health information in Canada was only an idea—one that sparked a discussion among health ministers across the country and led to a national task force on the subject.

In the 1991 report of the National Task Force on Health Information, task force chair Martin Wilk described health information in Canada as being in “a deplorable state.” He said his image of health information at the time was “somewhat like an unmapped forest with undefined boundaries.” 

The task force report called for, among other things, a non-government institute for health information that would play a significant role as a collaborative partner. Three years later, in 1994, CIHI opened its doors.

Since then, we have grown from 112 employees in Ottawa and Toronto to more than 700 across the country. In that 20-year period, we’ve also expanded from 3 databases to 27, consisting of data and information on numerous aspects of the health system.

Today, CIHI plays a leadership role in developing and coordinating a common approach for health information in Canada. In this capacity, CIHI has become a prominent part of the health care landscape.

Alan Forster, physician and scientific director of performance measurement at The Ottawa Hospital, notes that CIHI’s leadership role is an important contribution to Canada’s health care system, and that CIHI’s ability to create capacity for those in the health system to track changes and monitor performance is something that’s critically important.

“I’ve had opportunities because of my scientific role to travel around the world, and I can see how CIHI stands internationally compared to other countries and their ability to do what we do here in Canada,” says Dr. Forster. “And I can say that Canada is one of the top countries in the world, and largely because of CIHI and its work.”

It’s easy to see some of the results of that work in the many data in action stories that capture how people use CIHI’s data. From battling depression in the elderly to reducing restraint use in nursing homes, there are many examples in print and video of how CIHI’s data helps to improve the health of Canadians every day. For instance:

But the impact our data makes isn’t the only thing that sets CIHI apart. It’s also the people—our stakeholders, partners and employees—that truly make a difference.

Just ask president and CEO John Wright who, when asked to highlight his most rewarding experience at CIHI during his tenure as president and CEO, says he can’t point to one “singular most rewarding experience. Rather, it has been—and continues to be—the experience of getting to meet, know and appreciate the great folks at CIHI, and through CIHI, that has been truly wonderful these past four years.”

As for what he hopes the next 20 years will bring for CIHI, he says he’d like to see a rewarding, exciting and innovative agenda filled with thrilling, exhilarating and stimulating initiatives.

As part of our anniversary celebrations, we invite you to visit our website over the next 12 months to learn more about the milestones and major advances in health information we’ve achieved together since 1994. These would not have been possible without your support and collaboration.


The conversation that sparked it all

Six years before CIHI opened its doors in 1994, Canada’s deputy ministers were already talking about how to improve health information in Canada.

So important was the topic that they created the National Health Information Council to take a closer look through a task force. Its findings are documented in Health Information for Canada, 1991: Report of the National Task Force on Health Information.

An independent institute for health information

The report recommended creating a national health information coordinating council and an independent institute for health information.  

Three years later, CIHI opened its doors following a merger of the Hospital Medical Records Institute (HMRI) and The Management Information Systems (MIS) Group. CIHI’s Board became the national health information coordinating council. CIHI’s focus, among other things, was to expand health information standards across health services.

From databases to data holdings

CIHI started with three databases—the Discharge Abstract Database (DAD), Ontario Trauma Registry (OTR) and Canadian Organ Replacement Register (CORR)—and only 112 employees.

Privacy and public access

In the first few years, policies for privacy, confidentiality and security were adopted, a website was launched and the first bilateral agreements were signed with nine provinces.

A roadmap for health information

In 1997, CIHI worked with Statistics Canada to create a roadmap for health information in Canada and released an inaugural set of strategic directions.

Putting CIHI on the map

In 1998, CIHI and Statistics Canada published the first Maclean’s Health Report, which increased public visibility.

Inaugural reports

CIHI’s first Health Care in Canada report was launched in 2000.

Leadership recognized

CIHI’s Board received the 2003 national Conference Board of Canada/Spencer Stuart award for innovation and excellence in governance. 

Products continue to make a mark

The first pan-Canadian hospital performance report was launched in 2011, and a major study on health care cost drivers was released the same year.

New online tools and apps

In 2013, CIHI piloted its first mobile app, launched the Indicator Library and created the first interactive tool for the general public that presents performance information about our health system.

Visit over the next 12 months to learn more about our milestones and major advances in health information.

We would like to thank all of our stakeholders for your support and collaboration these past 20 years. You’ve helped us to deliver better data, support better decisions and, in turn, contribute to healthier Canadians.