“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
In Canada, the vast majority of physicians are part of the public health system. One of the biggest complaints among these physicians is the administrative burden they face, including filling out forms for insurance companies, workers’ compensation boards, and the government. This problem is not new, and despite decades of complaints, little has been done to reduce the burden on physicians.
One of the reasons for the lack of government and hospital initiatives to address this problem may be that physicians are not known for taking bold action to demand better from policymakers or hospitals on behalf of patients. Doctors can speak their minds but are too busy taking care of patients to strike or take to the streets in protest, at least in Canada.
A simple solution to this problem is effective delegation. Physicians have found success in private health care by delegating administrative tasks to others, such as secretaries and physician assistants. This allows physicians to focus on patients rather than on paperwork. Another solution is to use medical scribes during office visits, allowing physicians to be more present with their patients and not have to worry about taking notes while talking.
The key to solving this problem is to invest in human resources. The private health care sector has recognized this and chosen to invest in these resources, resulting in better patient outcomes. However, the public health care sector has yet to make this investment.
This is where the role of the individual physician comes into play. Rather than continuing to complain about the problem, physicians can choose to invest in their own administrative support, whether that means hiring a secretary or using medical scribes to work with them in the hospital. It can be done.
I know it because I did it for four years at a large university health center in Montreal. It helped me serve my patients better by taking care of their administrative needs as well.
I ruffled some feathers by hiring my private secretary and having her work with me in a public hospital, but you can’t create change without the courage to create change.
In conclusion, the administrative burden on public health physicians is a long-standing problem that needs to be addressed. One solution is to invest in human resources such as secretaries, physician assistants, and medical scribes. While the public health sector has yet to make this investment, individual physicians can take matters into their own hands by choosing to invest in their own administrative support. By doing so, physicians can provide better patient care and improve their work-life balance.
Jean Paul Brutus is a hand surgeon.