Bradshaw: Docs ‘drowning in paperwork’


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WINNIPEG — A provincial task force to save doctors from “drowning in paperwork” has yet to get off the ground.

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WINNIPEG — A provincial task force to save doctors from “drowning in paperwork” has yet to get off the ground.

On the heels of a national report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that found doctors across the country could fit in 55.6 million more patient visits if they didn’t have to deal with unnecessary administrative forms, the provincial government says it’s still working on it.

In its Patients Before Paperwork report published Monday, the CFIB estimates doctors spend 18 million hours a year on unnecessary paperwork — an average of 10 to 11 hours per week. It’s based on a Nova Scotia study that found 38 per cent of doctors’ paperwork is unnecessary because 24 per cent of it could be filled out by someone other than a physician, and 14 per cent of it could be completely eliminated. In Manitoba, a 10 per cent reduction in unnecessary paperwork equates to 177,000 additional patient visits a year.

“Simply put, physicians are drowning in paperwork,” said Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Candace Bradshaw, who spoke to reporters Monday, saying doctors have repeatedly called on the government to help cut out redundant forms.

“It is absolutely soul-sucking work, because we know a lot of it is unnecessary and yet we are required to do it.”

Some examples of unnecessary paperwork include duplicate forms, annual required documents for patients with lifelong conditions and even forms that ask physicians to answer “strange” questions, Bradshaw said.

She said she has been asked to rate on a scale of one-to-10 how important a specialist referral is to a patient, and how the patient feels about their likelihood of improving. Provincial and private agencies often require physician signatures on forms that could otherwise be filled out by other medical staff.

Bradshaw said she is not taking new patients, partly because of the associated paperwork. About 60 to 70 per cent of each of her patient visits are taken up by administrative duties, she estimated. She spends 10 to 12 hours on paperwork each week.

“We did not go into medicine to do data entry,” she said, blaming the paperwork as a leading cause of burnout among doctors. “Knowing that a lot of this paperwork is unnecessary and redundant causes an increased level of stress, I would say, amongst all of us, and as that stress builds and builds, it just keeps adding layer and layer onto a profession that’s already burned out. So it’s very frustrating, it’s very tedious.”

Last November, the government promised to start a task force aimed at reducing that kind of red tape. A provincial spokesperson didn’t address a question about whether Manitoba is trying to adopt a system similar to the one being used to cut out unnecessary paperwork by Nova Scotia’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness.

» Winnipeg Free Press

“Our government is working with Doctors Manitoba to help reduce unnecessary administrative burdens faced by physicians. We looking forward to providing an update on this initiative in the near future,” a Manitoba government spokesperson stated.

“This initiative is a part of our government’s $200-million health human resource action plan to add 2,000 health professionals to the system.”

» Winnipeg Free Press

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