Reducing physician administrative burden

Reducing physician administrative burden

Doctors Nova Scotia, with the support of the Department of Health and Wellness, has partnered with the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness to identify and implement concrete actions to reduce unnecessary physician administrative burden.

Doctors in Nova Scotia collectively spend 1.36 million hours a year on administrative tasks. While much of that work is important, doctors report 500,000 hours of this work is considered unnecessary.

More than 45 initiatives have been identified, many completed, others underway, to reduce physician red tape by 400,000 hours per year, the equivalent of 1.2 million patient visits, by the end of 2024.

Completed work

As of March 31, 2024 more than 262,000 hours have been saved:

  • A public awareness campaign informing patients that referrals to certain allied health care professionals (massage therapist, chiropractor and physiotherapist) are not needed by most private insurance plans in Nova Scotia
  • Legislation passed to significantly limit the use of medical notes for employee absences
  • Enabling the use of physician assistants in our healthcare system to augment various care teams, and allowing registered nurses to onboard patients at some collaborative care practices and admit patients into hospital
  • With help from Canada Life and Health Insurance Association, the number of different short term disability forms has been reduced from 28 to one standard form, which has been added in the EMR
  • Improving high volume forms by making them easier to understand and faster to complete
  • Making it easier and faster for physicians from other parts of Atlantic Canada to practice in Nova Scotia
  • Providing more options to Nova Scotians to receive treatment for common illnesses at mobile clinics and pharmacies
  • Making common-sense modifications to processes and policies, like moving the maternal serum screening process to a single comprehensive test and introducing technological capabilities where possible

Find the full list of red tape reducing actions here.

Forms and processes

Click here for a round up of changes to forms (and where to find them) and process to the end of 2023.

Administrative burden physician advisors hired

Drs. Amanda MacDonald-Green, family physician, and Osama Loubani, ER/ICU physician, are working with ORASE to help determine the impact of administrative burden reduction initiatives. The work of the advisors is generously supported by funding from the CMA, MD Financial Management Inc. and Scotiabank. Contact them

Physician involvement

Physicians are encouraged to submit their ideas to reduce administrative burden via the physician portal

Measuring physician administrative burden

Physicians have raised unnecessary administrative burden as an issue impacting patient care, professional practice and the effectiveness of the health-care system.

Since 2019, Doctors Nova Scotia (DNS), with the support of the Department of Health and Wellness, has worked with the provincial Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness (ORASE) to reduce physician administrative burden.

Measuring regulatory or administrative burden is critical to understanding and communicating its significance.

To better understand the size and scope of physician administrative burden, the office worked with DNS and other key stakeholders on a survey to quantify physician administrative burden and its impact. With this work, Nova Scotia becomes this first province in Canada to measure physician administrative burden.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • On average, Nova Scotia physicians spend more than one full day per week (10.6 hours) on administrative tasks
  • Physicians reported that 38% of this time was spent on unnecessary administrative tasks: 24% was work that could be done by another role and 14% was work that could be eliminated entirely
  • The top contributors to unnecessary administrative burden were completing medical forms, doctor’s notes, business operations, billing (including shadow billing), licensing and privileging
  • The health system itself, including the complexity of the governing and oversight bodies, also contributed to physician administrative burden
  • Physicians reported administrative burden was a significant contributor to burnout and that they could use the freed-up time to achieve better work/life balance and patient care

Read a full analysis of the survey results here.

*With special thanks to: 
The Canadian Medical Association, MD Financial Management Inc. and Scotiabank together proudly support work on physician administrative burden, one of several initiatives that comprise our 10-year, $115 million commitment to supporting the medical profession and advancing health in Canada.  

Canadian Medical Association, MD Financial Management and Scotiabank logos displayed together horizontally


Samantha Graham
Policy advisor

Next steps