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. 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, CMA Patient Voice Member
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.
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.
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.
[Providers are] getting buried in paperwork right now. What they need is a system that’s a lot more nimble, that doesn’t demand that family physicians become the documenters of the system, having to fill out forms again and again.— Dr. Brian Goldman, Emergency physician, author and broadcaster
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.