The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — Many methods used to compare Canadian hospitals aren’t focused enough on whether treatments are helping patients, says a newly released paper by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

The study released on Wednesday is part of the right-leaning think-tank’s effort to create its own comparisons of Atlantic Canadian hospitals.

The institute is aiming for its report to be out later this year or early next year.

Julia Witt, a research fellow in health economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia, criticizes some of the indicators used in existing surveys, such as the average length of stay of patients.

For example, Witt argues it may not always be true that a hospital where patients spend less time is a good hospital.

‘‘Shorter lengths of stay could be the result of insufficient funds or space to keep patients for a more optimal length,’’ she writes.

‘‘If there is pressure on freeing up beds, patients may be released earlier in order to make beds available.’’

Sometimes, she writes, such ‘‘clinical efficiency measurements’’ assess if a hospital is saving money, but tell little about the quality of patient care.

She argues that the institute’s study should focus more on indicators that measure, compare and improve the quality of care in hospitals.

For instance, she says giving patients knowledge about which hospitals have high rates of surgical site infections is more useful.

‘‘This is information patients should know so that they can make a more informed choice about the hospital in which they will be treated,’’ Witt writes.

‘‘At the same time, such information provides added incentive to a facility to determine the cause of the problem and correct it, thereby improving the quality of health care.’’