Doctors in Canada are collectively spending approximately 18.5 million hours on unnecessary paperwork and administrative tasks each year, the equivalent of an incredible 55.6 million patient visits annually, according to a new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) entitled Patients before Paperwork, released today as part of CFIB’s 14th annual Red Tape Awareness Week.
“Red tape hurts everyone, and we should be looking to reduce it wherever we can especially where it promises to free up time in areas we care about,” said Laura Jones, CFIB executive vice-president and co-author of the report. “Whether we are talking about healthcare availability or housing affordability, red tape reduction should be part of the solution. This is common sense that is too often overlooked.”
In a recent CFIB survey, 88% of small business owners said that addressing health care challenges should be a top priority for governments. Other CFIB research found 89% of Canadians and 87% of business owners agree that governments should focus on reducing physician paperwork to free up time for more patient visits.
Patients before Paperwork builds on the findings of an innovative 2020 study from Nova Scotia’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness. Using Nova Scotia’s data as a benchmark, CFIB’s report estimates the total physician red tape burden in each province and territory as well as the number of patient visits that could be restored with the elimination of unnecessary paperwork and administrative tasks. Unnecessary tasks include work that could be eliminated entirely as well as work that does not require a physician’s clinical expertise and could be done by someone else. Examples include lengthy and redundant forms and processes, and time-consuming tasks like filling out overly complicated paperwork for insurance companies.
The Nova Scotia government set a target to reduce the physician administrative burden by 10% by 2024, with a goal to free up 50,000 hours of physician time a year, the equivalent of 150,000 patient visits. The province has identified specific actions it will take to achieve this goal – for example, shortening or eliminating specific forms, and streamlining outdated processes to save doctors’ time. This work was recognized by CFIB in 2022 with a Golden Scissors Award for leadership in red tape reduction.
“For years, medical associations have urged governments to address the physician administrative burden because of the negative impact it has on physicians and their patients,” said Dr. Candace Bradshaw, President of Doctors Manitoba. “Not only does red tape limit a physician’s ability to see their existing patients and take on new ones, it is also a significant cause of physician burnout, which is at an all-time high. Physicians appreciate the attention CFIB is bringing to this important topic, and we hope governments across Canada will act.”
CFIB is urging other provinces and territories to follow Nova Scotia’s lead and commit to measuring and reducing the physician red tape burden in their jurisdictions. Reducing physician red tape by 10% could save the equivalent of 5.5 million patient visits across Canada.
“Even a small reduction in the physician administrative burden can have a significant positive impact on the lives of millions of Canadians, not to mention thousands of doctors,” said Ryan Mallough, CFIB vice-president of legislative affairs. “Canada’s healthcare system is facing many complex challenges but reducing physician red tape is one concrete and measurable step governments can take to avoid physician burnout and improve patient care.”