SAS® helps Cancer Care Ontario improve quality of patient care

Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) is the provincial agency responsible for continually improving cancer services. It directs nearly CAD$700 million in public health dollars to hospitals and other provider agencies to deliver timely, high-quality services. Aside from overseeing cancer prevention and screening programs, CCO works with cancer care professionals to deliver cancer surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy services and to implement quality improvements, plan cancer services to meet current and future patient needs, and transfer new research into clinical practice.

The Ontario Cancer Plan has six goals that span the continuum of cancer care:

  1. Reduce the incidence of cancer.
  2. Reduce the impact of cancer through effective screening and earlier detection.
  3. Ensure timely access to effective diagnosis and high-quality cancer care.
  4. Improve the patient experience along every step of the cancer journey.
  5. Improve the performance of Ontario's cancer system.
  6. Strengthen Ontario's ability to translate cancer research into improvements in cancer services and control.

Given that the province of Ontario has a publicly funded healthcare system, it's critical to allocate funding and resources properly so that patients receive the same quality of care regardless of where they live. CCO sets standards for quality of care across the province. It measures performance and develops strategies to push the system in the right direction, using quarterly performance reviews to link quality care to funding.

"We need to understand the services we deliver. We need to understand the quality of those services. And we need to measure that," said Graham Woodward, Director of Provincial Planning with CCO, who works with his team to identify issues and develop strategies for long-term planning. "If we do our job well, the only thing patients will see is timely access to high-quality services by their provider – they won't even know we exist."

CCO is governed by an act of legislation called The Cancer Act and is accountable to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. CCO doesn't provide direct patient services or manage all cancer services funding; it's reliant on strong working relationships with different providers – who all have their own standalone data sets.

"The system was never designed to track individuals through multiple aspects of care – from the first time they visit their family practitioner through to screening and diagnostic services, all of which can be provided through different agencies," said Woodward. "We need to be able to measure, study and improve upon this, and SAS helps us do that." SAS provides a scalable, integrated software environment for data access, transformation and reporting, including ready-to-use programs for data manipulation.

SAS is by far the best tool I've found to incorporate the different data sets, and information sources, required to tell the patient journey story. It gives me flexibility to dig into the root data stores and modify my analysis to tell a slightly different story for each question that I need to address.
grahamwoodward

Graham Woodward
Director of Provincial Planning, Cancer Care Ontario

To understand current demand – and what that means for future demand – Woodward's team started to build relatively simple models within common tools like Microsoft Excel. But as the models became more complicated and they had to pull in different data sets from multiple sources, it became too risky to rely upon those tools – they turned to SAS to deal with the complexity of their data."Most reporting tools generate standard reports out of one data set. For my job, I need to track a patient through time and across various providers, which means linking multiple standalone data sets to create what looks like a continual picture of patient care," said Woodward. "SAS helps me put together flexible data sets to see a patient's progress through the cancer care system."

Using SAS, for example, CCO can estimate the future impact on individual hospital resources if lung cancer surgery is consolidated from approximately 50 hospitals, with each performing a small volume of these, to approximately 15 hospitals, which will perform higher volumes resulting in better outcomes for patients. SAS helps generate a quantitative picture to ensure that patients continue to get high-quality services and access in an appropriate time period.

SAS allows CCO to create a clear picture of the current service delivery process in terms of how and where people get care. For Woodward, the biggest return is his ability to answer questions such as: How many people will require chemotherapy in 2015, where will they seek this care, and will there be enough medical oncologists?

"SAS is by far the best tool I've found to incorporate the different data sets and information sources required to tell the patient journey story. It gives me flexibility to dig into the root data stores and modify my analysis to tell a slightly different story for each question that I need to address," said Woodward.

cancercareontario

Challenge

With multiple standalone information sources across the province, Cancer Care Ontario needed a clear picture of patient care to understand current and future resource requirements.

Solution

SAS software provided Cancer Care Ontario with a scalable, integrated environment for data access, transformation and reporting, including ready-to-use programs for data manipulation and analysis.

Benefits

SAS helps Cancer Care Ontario with cancer system planning so patients receive the same quality of timely care regardless of where they live.

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