What is Health System Research?

What Is Health System Research and Why Does it Matter?


Health System Research:

Research with the goal of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health professionals and the health care system, through changes to practice and policy. Health services research is a multi-disciplinary field of scientific investigation that studies how social factors, financing systems, organizational structures and processes, health technologies and personal behaviours affect access to health care, the quality and cost of health care, and, ultimately, Canadian’s health and well-being.

(As defined by Canadian Institutes for Health Research)

health system research


Dr. Andreas Lupacis, Executive Director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital, provides a brief overview of health system research.

High-quality health care is important to all Ontarians. The Ontario government spends over $50 billion on health care annually. How health care is organized and financed affects the quality and cost of health care. It is therefore crucially important that we understand how well our health care system is working and how we could do things better. That is the focus of health system and policy research, which is increasingly being conducted in collaboration with patients, families, clinicians, sector partners and policy makers.

Some of the types of questions answered by health system and policy research include:

  • Does the kind of care patients receive vary depending upon where they live or what their income is? (yes!)
  • What is the quality of care patients receive (it’s variable) and how can it be improved?
  • Is there a more cost-effective way of delivering care?
  • What changes in how care is organized and delivered would improve patient satisfaction and other outcomes?