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Data collection on patients in emergency departments
in Canada

CAN-BR-Patient Data Collection

Canada (ED)

Objective: Relatively little is known about the ability of Canadian emergency departments (EDs) and the federal, provincial and territorial governments to quantify ED activity. The objectives of this study were to determine the use of electronic patient data in Canadian EDs, the accessibility of provincial data on ED visits, and to identify the data elements and current methods of ED information system (EDIS) data collection nationally. 

Methods: Surveys were conducted of the following 3 groups: 1) all ED directors of Canadian hospitals located in communities of >10 000 people, 2) all electronic EDIS vendors, and 3) representatives from the ministries of health from 13 provincial and territorial jurisdictions who had knowledge of ED data collection. 

Results: Of the 243 ED directors contacted, 158 completed the survey (65% response rate) and 39% of those reported using an electronic EDIS. All 11 EDIS vendor representatives responded. Most of the vendors provide a similar package of basic EDIS options, with add-on features. All 13 provincial or territorial government representatives completed the survey. Nine (69%) provinces and territories collect ED data, however the source of this information varies. Five provinces and territories collect triage data, and 3 have a comprehensive, jurisdiction-wide, population-based ED database. Thirty-nine percent of EDs in larger Canadian communities track patients using electronic methods. A variety of EDIS vendor options are available and used in Canada. 

Conclusion: The wide variation in methods and in data collected presents serious barriers to meaningful comparison of ED services across the country. It is little wonder that the majority of information regarding ED overcrowding in Canada is anecdotal, when the collection of this critical health information is so variable. There is an urgent need to place the collection of ED information on the provincial and national agenda and to ensure that the collection of this information consistent, comprehensive and mandatory.

Authors: Brian H Rowe, Kenneth Bond, Maria B Ospina, Sandra Blitz, Michael Schull, Douglas Sinclair, Michael Bullard

Brian Rowe -

Planning/ Thinking stage

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