Canada boasts a free healthcare system; something that many countries in the world cannot say. However, it is not a system without its own flaws or shortcomings.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), an independent non-profit organization, is trying to change this with its use of analytics to solve the system’s inefficiencies. This is a task it has undertaken since its founding in 1994; and one that it has tackled with SAS software from the very establishment of the organization.

Some of the duties that CIHI holds are developing standards for healthcare, providing data to help improve procedures and overall care, developing analytical tools for the healthcare system, and analyzing the effectiveness of new technologies and tools.

Jeff Hatcher, director of analytics for CIHI. Credit: CIHI

Jeff Hatcher, the director of advanced analytics for CIHI, oversees a team of about 25 analysts, statisticians, and data scientists, and says that he sees a large role for analytics to play in the Canadian healthcare system, especially when it comes to justifying the costs of implementing new technologies, standards, and procedures that will help improve the system.

“The costs of medical care – you know, new technologies, new healthcare – it’s expensive. So being able to ensure that is rationalized most effectively… and making sure that’s used most effectively, certainly around wait times, access to the system, health human resources, and other areas. There are certainly shortcomings there,” said Hatcher. “In terms of what we’re able to do with it, there are a few areas where we can certainly help in terms of being able to identify most effective use of healthcare dollars. We definitely have tools that will estimate what the cost of care is for certain types of procedures. We are also able to bring that together for the patient journey through the health care system and be able to provide sort of a more comprehensive, holistic profile of the individual.”

And in this challenge to improve healthcare, Hatcher says that CIHI has benefitted greatly from using SAS software and he does not see that changing anytime soon.

“We are a huge SAS shop…from the very beginning. And I can’t see us moving away from SAS as our go-to tool that forms the basis of a lot of our analytical work,” said Hatcher. “SAS is evolving in terms of its capabilities and what it can provide in its toolbox. We want to expand the skill sets and give people flexibility and more tools in their toolbox it’s the common language that we all understand across the organization or look at analytics.”

As more and more industries move towards the implementation of analytics, more efficient data processes, as well as AI capabilities, Hatcher says CIHI is following suit.

“I think it’s early days in terms of our innovations. But certainly, just over the last year…we think about AI, how can we kind of implement it within the processes that are there, ” he said. “Then getting the true electronic medical records within the hospitals and doctors offices. Being able to think about how we can assist the organizations with extracting that information, using it themselves, and also providing it to ministries of health. I think there’s a lot of innovation there that we can actually bring a lot of efficiencies by which that data is collected. There’s a lot of opportunities there for processes within hospitals that we can actually develop predictive risk models that will actually help them in terms of their processes around providing patient care and running the organization more efficiently.”

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