Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit Releases Report on Small Area Variation (SARV) in the Rate of High-Cost Healthcare Use across Nova Scotia

Press Release

5% of Nova Scotians consume 64% of Nova Scotia’s healthcare budget.

Halifax, February 2, 2016: The Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU) has released a report about high-cost users of healthcare in Nova Scotia. The report, funded in-part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), offers insight from patients and recommendations to healthcare policy makers about how to reduce costs and improve outcomes with targeted interventions.

“We found that just five percent of Nova Scotians use 64% of health resources, while experiencing poor health,” says Dr. George Kephart, Principal Investigator of the study. “This report is the first step in learning about the factors driving health costs and getting to the root of how we can promote better health outcomes. By improving services to this small number of high-cost users, we can see huge returns in both outcomes and cost recovery. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Department of Health and Wellness supports the MSSU in this research. “We have an opportunity to ensure that our healthcare system uses the evidence we gather in reports like this one to drive better health for all Nova Scotians. We will work closely with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK to apply the evidence we gather to healthcare decision-making. This isn’t about saving money – it’s about intervening early to ensure Nova Scotians with complex healthcare needs are able to live better, healthier lives,” says Dr. Peter Vaughan, Nova Scotia’s Deputy Minister of Health and Wellness.

“CIHR is pleased to support the MSSU in its efforts to improve the care provided by the health and social services across the Maritimes. MSSU's latest report showcases how evidence-based decisions can inform health policy and practice to achieve greater health and wellbeing for Canadians,” Dr. Jeff Latimer, Director General, Priority-Driven Research Branch, CIHR.

The SARV report will be available on the MSSU website today in an extended version and a 4-page summary document. It can be found at Join the conversation about #SARV on Twitter @maritimespor. 




The Maritime SPOR Support Unit (MSSU) is dedicated to supporting patient-oriented research and health services decision making in the Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. MSSU is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), in partnership with the governments of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI and the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Health Research Foundations.

MSSU offers support to health research teams in planning and implementing all aspects of patient-oriented research, including:

  • Patient engagement
  • Knowledge translation
  • Evidence synthesis
  • Privacy and ethics
  • Health administrative data access and navigation
  • Capacity building events
  • Training and mentorship



Small area variation analysis is a research tool used by health services researchers to describe how rates of health care use and events vary over well-defined geographic areas[i].


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.


[1] Parchman, M. (1995). Small area variation analysis: a tool for primary care research. Fam Med, 27(4):272-6.