Canadian Medical Association


Physicians are spending millions of hours a year on unnecessary administrative tasks – driving burnout, and in some cases reduced clinical hours, at a time when millions of Canadians are struggling with access to health care. While some provinces and territories have started tackling this issue, according to a 2024 report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, scaling up these efforts, including setting clear reduction targets, are urgently needed. Here’s a snapshot of how red tape impacts both providers and patients and how the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is advocating change.

How much paperwork do physicians do?

Physicians spend 18.5 million hours on unnecessary administrative tasks each year.

38% of administrative tasks could be eliminated or do not require physician expertise .

More than 60% of physicians surveyed in 2016 said it takes 21-30 minutes to complete one typical federal disability form.

2/3 of physicians say the time they spend on administrative tasks has increased in the last 5 years.

How does administrative burden affect physicians?

61% of general practitioners say the time they spend on Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) at home is “excessive” or “moderately high,” compared to 39% of their specialist colleagues.

75% of physicians say unnecessary administrative tasks negatively affects job satisfaction.

60% of physicians say administrative burden is a direct contributor to the deterioration of their mental health.

Physicians suffering mental distress are 1.4 times more likely to reduce clinical hours compared to their peers.

49% of physicians polled in 2021 said they were “likely” or “very likely” to reduce clinical hours in the next 24 months.


Read more about the toll of admin burden on physician wellbeing, and the future of family medicine

How does this administrative burden affect patients?

Three-quarters of physicians say their administrative workload is an impediment to caring for their patients.

Time spent on unnecessary administrative work by doctors is equivalent to 55.6 million patient visits

78% of doctors say they are unable to exchange patients’ clinical summaries with doctors outside their own practice.

Only 27% of Canadians say they can access their own electronic health records.

What can we do about it?

There is important work underway to reduce administrative burden in a number of provinces and territories. Scaling up these efforts across the country would have a significant impact on access to care. Here’s what the CMA is calling for:

  • Simplify, reduce or eliminate federal forms Physicians, health authorities and governments can work together to streamline administrative work.
  • Mandate interoperability of health data EMRs have increased health information exponentially. New national standards are needed to ensure the most meaningful data is clear and accessible to the people who need it most.
  • Eliminate unnecessary sick notes A task force in Nova Scotia found that doctors were spending about 100,000 hours a year on sick notes. To fix that, the government passed legislation to prohibit employers from requesting them for short-term absences, and expanded the range of health professionals who can provide them when necessary. Other provinces and territories should consider similar initiatives.
  • Fund innovation The CMA has partnered with MD Financial Management and Scotiabank® on the Healthcare Unburdened Grant, a $10 million program to support projects that reduce the administrative burden in medicine to improve physician wellbeing.

Learn more about the CMA’s work on the administrative burden in medicine


Patients before paperwork (Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 2023)

Third Party Forms: The Physician's Role (CMA, 2017)

Joint Task Force to Reduce Administrative Burdens on Physicians: Progress Report (Doctors Manitoba, 2023)

CMA 2021 National Physician Health Survey: Final Report (CMA, 2022)

Improving Accountability in Health Care for Canadians (CMA, 2023)

Back to top