When Administrative Burdens Take Over, Physicians and Patients Lose

Based on the feedback I received from my last message in the Nov. 21 Kentucky Health eNews, I think it’s safe to say the issue of administrative burden touched a nerve for many of you.

I am encouraged by that fact because I believe the Association has chosen a wise platform to work toward improvement for physicians. I truly feel this may be the biggest challenge ever to face the practice of medicine.

It’s obvious this issue can have disastrous consequences for both physicians and our patients. A study released earlier this year by the American Medical Association (AMA) went so far as to call for physician burnout (much of it caused by unnecessary administrative burdens) to be labeled a “public health crisis.” When you consider that one in every five physicians intend to cut their clinical hours in the next year, and almost one in 50 intend to leave medicine entirely in the next two years, that statement suddenly doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch.

But physicians aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of administrative burdens. Patients suffer from limited face time, rushed, impersonal visits and reduced access to care as the result of excessive administrative and clerical tasks. On a typical day, primary care physicians only spend about 27% of their time on “meaningful clinical care” while a whopping 49% is devoted to administrative activities, according to a 2016 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

During the launch of their Patients Over Paperwork initiative in October, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma admitted that over the last five years, the agency has released about 58 rules per year — the equivalent of 11,000 published manuscript pages. While Patients Over Paperwork is aimed at curbing those regulations, Kentucky physicians can’t stand idly by and wait for changes to be made on a federal level. Imagine how many more pages we’d all have to read if the CMS initiative doesn’t hold up to its objectives!

In developing our own initiative, set to launch in 2018, KMA is looking for feedback from physicians on this issue. We have set up an email address exclusively for receiving your opinions and experiences with barriers to care. Simply send a message to administrativeburden@kyma.org and be sure to include your name and contact information.

I truly believe we are on the right track to tackling this issue, but it’s going to take all of us working together to find the solutions. I’d like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, and a New Year filled with renewed passion for the practice of medicine.