Outcome-based Performance Metrics in Canadian Health Care: Moving from “How Many” to “How Well”

Performance in the health sector has conventionally been viewed in terms of volumes, such as the number of additional surgeries that were performed in a given year. Unfortunately, health status and outcomes are not routinely assessed in Canada. This is a substantive concern — imagine the case where your car manufacturer's performance metric did not include car safety and performance but merely focused on production volume. Health status is a more appropriate outcome than volume for assessing system performance, and understanding variation in performance of the health system provides the opportunity to improve patients’ health-related quality of life. This study aims to develop a system to assess the performance of the health care system by measuring what it produces in terms of "health," such as health-related quality of life rather than only measuring the "production of health care" — for example, surgical volumes.

Dr. Jennifer Davis' research will address the use and analysis of “performance metrics” within health care, with a particular focus on patient-centred and outcome-based measures using Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs). PROMs are detailed surveys that allow patients to report important changes as a result of a medical intervention and allow the assessment of health-related quality of life. Thus, instead of just measuring that a surgery took place, PROMs measure the patient’s perception of how the surgery has improved their life.

Dr. Davis will be applying knowledge from fields outside the health care sector, such as engineering and education, to improve performance assessment within the health care sector. By determining how specific measures improve performance outcomes in other fields, and by identifying which of these are most effective, she will then specifically determine the potential to adapt these measures as PROMS within the health care context to enhance the health of Canadians. This critical platform will enable the first performance assessments using a patient-centred and outcome-based approach in Canada.