Greater efficiencies realized in Ontario's cancer system

Photo representing teamwork
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Today (May 18), the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario released the results of the 2016 Cancer System Quality Index (CSQI), an interactive web-based tool used to measure the performance of the cancer system in Ontario. The findings indicate that efficiencies, such as a reduction in unnecessary or duplicate testing, maximizing the use of radiation investments, and the creation of specialized cancer treatment centres to consolidate expertise, have improved patient outcomes and the safety of the cancer system, enabling greater capacity in the healthcare system.

“The Cancer System Quality Index is an important tool to measure the effectiveness of the cancer system and generate evidence that identifies areas for improvement,” said Virginia McLaughlin, Chair of the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario. “Cancer Care Ontario has taken steps to find efficiencies that are based on evidence and improve quality of care. This approach is important given the growing and aging population and the rising costs of cancer therapies that have put increased pressure on the healthcare system.”

The CSQI found there were a number of improvements in efficiency this year. The improvements, noted below, show how the system is responding to the evidence based benchmarks that are set for each indicator. Although improvements have been made in certain areas it is important to note there is still room for further improvement in each of these indicators.

  • Reduction in unnecessary screening tests: there have been fewer people returning early for screening. Having appropriate screening for those who fall within evidence-based guideline recommendations enable the system to have greater capacity and provide more timely access to testing for those who require it. 
  • Reduction in imaging tests: there is potential to reduce unnecessary tests, such as MRIs and CT scans for staging of early-stage breast cancer patients, as per evidence-based guidelines. Reducing unnecessary imaging tests frees up space in the system for other patients who require these tests, while reducing exposure of patients to unnecessary radiation and false-positive results.
  • Reduction in wait times: over the last decade, wait times to access radiation treatment decreased because of an investment in people, facilities and technology which has enabled patients to access more effective treatments quicker. 
  • Improved patient outcomes: quality of care has improved due to the consolidation of cancer surgery at specialized cancer treatment centres. Greater specialization and increased multidisciplinary collaboration in these centres are contributing to improved patient care. 
  • Higher survival rates: the CSQI also highlights Ontario’s cancer survival rates. When compared with other provinces and international jurisdictions, Ontario survival rates are among the highest, particularly among countries with similar socio-economic status and healthcare systems.

“The CSQI is an important tool that guides our continued work to improve cancer care and build a better healthcare system in Ontario,” said Michael Sherar, President and CEO, CCO. “While the evidence highlighted in this year’s report identifies that progress continues to be made, there is more work to be done to ensure an efficient, safe, high-quality and equitable system for all Ontarians.”

The CSQI includes a special focus on cervical cancer, and also has new indicators this year including patient and family engagement, Aboriginal relationships, patient education, access to psychosocial oncology dietitian services, and wait times for palliative care, to ensure all aspects of the cancer system are being measured and understood.

The CSQI has been released annually since 2005 and evolves year-over-year. The tool is used to inform Cancer Care Ontario’s overall action plan, helping to determine priorities and allocation of resources. This year, a total of 39 indicators are included, spanning the cancer journey from screening to survivorship as well as end-of-life care, along with several measures related to cancer prevention.

Visit to review all the indicators and this year’s interactive release.