Canadian Medical Association

Doctors don’t go into medicine for the paperwork.

But from charting, third-party forms and sick notes, to managing an office, tracking down lab results and following up from patient appointments, physician's administrative load can be relentless.

In many cases, this work takes place afterhours – extending the workday and negatively affecting work-life balance. According to the CMA’s latest National Physician Health Survey, nearly 60% of physicians have said these are issues that directly contribute to worsening mental health.

Seventy-five percent of doctors have said their administrative workload is also an impediment to caring for their patients, getting in the way of important relationships and their satisfaction in work.

Despite the promise of new technologies such as EMR, overtime among health care workers is in fact at the highest point in more than a decade. On average, physicians are working more than 10 hours per week outside of the normal workday on administrative tasks. This is felt even more acutely by general practitioners, who are significantly more likely (61%) to say they spend an “excessive” or “moderately high” amount of time on EMR at home compared to their specialist colleagues (39%). Of these tasks, 38% could either be done by someone else or eliminated entirely.

Doctors and patients both need dedicated time to partner on the issues that matter most. Administrative tasks and filling in gaps from missing or siloed information chips away at this valuable time and degrades the ability for us to authentically connect.

Claire Snyman, former CMA Patient Voice Member

15.5 million hours spent on unnecessary administrative tasks by physicians each year. Time spent on unnecessary administrative work by doctors is equivalent to 55.6 million patient visits. 38% of administrative tasks that could be done by someone other than a physician.

Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business: Patients before paperwork, 2023

Our work on reducing administrative burdens

Nova Scotia and British Columbia have both launched initiatives to reduce unnecessary administration among physicians. But more is needed. The CMA is calling for a national effort to address doctors’ administrative burdens.

stethoscope on top of papers

We have recommended prohibiting employee sick notes – a known strain on the health care system – and more standardization across third-party forms to make them less cumbersome.

closeup of file folders

In partnership with the College of Family Physicians of Canada and Canadian Nurses Association, we have called for federal funding to enhance access to administrative supports.

Our advocacy for an integrated health workforce, including teams with nurses, scribes and administrative support, could also alleviate the administrative burden on physicians and support their professional wellbeing.

Our partners on administrative workloads

In collaboration with provincial and territorial medical associations, we are working to develop solutions that work for physicians across the country.​​​​

Together with MD Financial Management and Scotiabank®, we are also funding solutions to help solve the challenge of administrative burden through the Health Care Unburdened Grant. The application-based initiative will provide up to $10 million in funding to eligible Canadian non-profit organizations who can reimagine and reduce the administrative work physicians face.

We know we there is a lot we can learn from others as well. At events like the Health Summit and the Canadian Conference on Physician Health in 2023, we heard fresh perspectives and innovative ideas for reducing administrative burden from organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the American Medical Association.

Most physicians go into medicine because we want to sit at that intersection between science and human-to-human connection. Administrative burden stands in the way of that positive relationship we have with patients. 

— Dr. Kathleen Ross, CMA president

What physicians can do to help

Collaboration with physicians and learners of all ages, stages and specialties, from rural and remote communities as well as big cities, is essential for a better way forward.

Find out how to get involved with the CMA’s work.

Read more about the CMA's areas of focus

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