Length of patient hospital stay compared to Canadian average length of hospital stay

Percentage of time patients spent in the hospital compared to the average stay in the hospital for similar types of patients in Canada (expected number of days in the hospital determined by the Canadian Institute for Health Information). (see data dictionary).

What do you see?

  • Are there any trends over time at the hospital where you work or would be most likely to visit?
  • Are there differences in patients’ length of stay between hospitals of the same type (e.g., Large Urban)?
  • Do some facilities have consistently longer hospital stays than the Canadian average? Are there times of the year when this changes?

Whether you’re a patient, provider, or health system administrator, thinking about why these differences might exist can start conversations and lead to solutions for improved quality of healthcare.

*Data courtesy of Alberta Health Services

Understanding “length of patient hospital stay compared to Canadian average length of hospital stay”

This chart provides information about the number of days patients stayed in the hospital compared to the expected length of stay for a typical patient. The expected length of stay is based on a comparison with patients with similar conditions across Canada (determined by the Canadian Institute for Health Information), and is also adjusted for factors like age, other illnesses, and risk factors.

The efficiency of the emergency department is often dependent on the efficiency of the hospital, and the healthcare system as a whole. By reviewing this expected length of stay compared to patients’ total actual* length of stay, administrators can examine how efficiently beds were being used in the hospital. When the length of hospital stay is lower than the Canadian average (illustrated on the graph with the dotted horizontal line), it represents an efficiency in overall length of stay, since patients are being discharged from the hospital in less time than the Canadian average.

When the length of hospital stay is higher than the Canadian average, this may result in longer wait times for patients in the emergency department waiting for a hospital bed.

Looking at the differences between hospitals on this chart, or differences within each hospital over time, can highlight opportunities for improvement. When this information is compared to other information, like the average number of admitted patients in the emergency department waiting for a hospital bed, we can get a more accurate idea of whether hospital efficiency might be impacting emergency department operations. Hospital occupancy can be affected by this measure.

*The total actual length of stay days used to calculate the numbers in this graph excludes the additional days a patient may have spent in hospital after they were re-classified as a patient waiting for alternative care (e.g., continuing care or rehabilitation unit).
Results from May and June 2016 are not reported for the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre due to the forest fire that affected Fort McMurray and forced the closure of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

Results for November 2019 to March 2020 are not available for the University of Alberta Hospital and the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta uses the Alberta Quality Matrix for Health as a way of organizing information and thinking around the complexity of the healthcare system. This measure can be used as input to assess the emergency department’s performance in these dimensions of quality:


Dimensions of Quality

  • Acceptability 
  • Accessibility 
  • Appropriateness 
  • Effectiveness 
  • Efficiency 
  • Safety