Responding to health system needs

Inside CIHI’s analytical plan: A look at CIHI’s upcoming projects, including indicator development and analytical reports

In its quest for better health outcomes, the health care system responds to many challenges, such as controlling health funding costs, managing health system performance and improving the quality of care and safety.

We see the impact of this work every day: when a patient undergoes surgery, waits to access a service or fills out a prescription.

But where do health system managers, clinicians and other health stakeholders turn for answers to some of their most critical questions about health system issues?

Since CIHI’s inception in 1994, our analytical products and indicators have been there to help provide answers. These products and indicators are driven by CIHI’s Analytical Plan, and they help inform the public and enlighten policy-makers when they make important decisions about health policy.

Hot off the press

To help focus its analytical work and generate more relevant and timely information for stakeholders, CIHI updates its Analytical Plan each year. This year’s Analytical Plan, 2014 to 2016 is hot off the press.

The plan presents a rolling picture of CIHI’s new analytical projects, including the development of new indicators and reports that will be undertaken over the next 2 years. The focus is on what’s new; annual updates of established CIHI reports and indicators are not included in the plan.

We’ve talked to our stakeholders

“For our new analytical work to be relevant and useful, it must respond to the evolving information needs of our partners in the health system,” says Kathleen Morris, director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues at CIHI. “That’s why consultations with stakeholders and jurisdictions are an essential part of the work that goes in to pulling the plan together each year,” she adds.

These consultations help ensure that CIHI is effectively addressing client needs and that its projects are prioritized accordingly. They also help us avoid duplication of effort and build partnerships with other organizations to fill information gaps and develop the best possible products.

What’s new on the agenda this year?

From youth mental health and health human resources to health system performance in 11 different countries, here are just a few highlights in this year’s Analytical Plan:

Access to care

Improving access to care is a prominent health policy issue in Canada. This year, 3 new areas of study are planned that look at this issue in more detail. One study examines whether having a regular primary care provider influences hospitalization rates. Another considers how patient outcomes are affected by access to inpatient rehabilitation following a hip fracture. Finally, new indicators to be released next year will measure wait times for chemotherapy for cancer treatment across the country.

Youth mental health

Mental health is also on the agenda, with youth mental health a growing issue for Canadians. In fact, an estimated 10% to 20% of youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder. This study looks at the services provided in hospitals for children with mental illness. It also highlights information on community-based services and examines drug use for mental health among adolescents.

Health human resources: How much do we spend?

Human resources are the largest component of health care spending in Canada. It’s estimated that 60 to 80 cents of every health care dollar goes toward health human resources (HHR) costs. This study will provide an estimate of HHR expenditures in Canada compared with those in other labour market sectors. It will also look at interprovincial comparisons in per capita HHR expenditure and examine how spending varies by employment sector.

High users of health services

A small segment of the population consumes a disproportionately large share of health care resources across Canada. CIHI recently held a summit with researchers and decision-makers from across the country to explore issues around high users of health services. CIHI will work closely with Statistics Canada to develop indicators and analyses to support more effective and efficient delivery of care to this population. An analysis of the characteristics of high users of acute care and emergency department services is planned for next year.

International comparisons

The Commonwealth Fund’s annual International Health Policy Survey looks at system performance in 11 developed countries, including Canada. The 2014 survey will focus on adults age 55 and older and explore themes around access to services, continuity of care and advanced care planning. The 2015 survey will focus on the views and experiences of primary health care providers.

Presenting results in new and innovative ways

This year’s plan also builds on CIHI’s recent success using infographics and other innovative ways to showcase material. “We’ll continue to work to present our information in a way that is dynamic, engaging and useful for our clients,” says Morris.

We know, for example, that some projects lend themselves well to infographics, and we’ve had great feedback when we’ve used these in past projects, she says. Stakeholders should also watch for more interactive ways to showcase our research and analyses, such as web tools, videos and PowerPoint slides.

CIHI is also making its products more accessible to clients by providing 1-page summaries and Excel files, an approach that makes it easier for stakeholders to incorporate data directly into their work.

We’re looking for input

Read more about the research topics CIHI is addressing in this year’s Analytical Plan, from health system efficiency, access to care, cancer and patient safety to bridging population health with health care services.

If you have suggestions for CIHI’s Analytical Plan or want more information, feel free to send us an email at