Ontario Helping Family Doctors Put Patients before Paperwork

Initiatives will save doctors 95,000 hours that can now be spent caring for people

The Ontario government says it is taking further action to help family doctors and other primary care providers spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork.

“Our government is making common sense changes that will reduce the administrative burden on family doctors so that they can spend more time caring for patients instead of doing duplicative or unnecessary paperwork,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

The government will allow primary care providers to spend more time with patients by making changes that encourage employers to use other tools instead of sick notes, such as attestations, that will help maintain accountability as employees request time off sick. The province is also expanding an innovative program to more than 150 primary care providers that safely uses artificial intelligence to automatically summarise or transcribe conversations with patients who consent into electronic medical notes. This will result in a better patient experience and more accurate records.

These initiatives, in addition to other changes aimed at putting patients over paperwork, will free up to 95,000 hours annually for physicians to put back into their practices caring for patients, including:

  • “Axe the fax” to replace fax machines over the next few years to speed up diagnosis, referrals and treatments while improving the privacy of patient’s health information.
  • Expanding eServices to digitize more referral and consultation forms so they can be conveniently shared electronically in a timely manner to obtain specialist advice, often eliminating the need for an in-person specialist visit entirely.
  • Improving the eForms platform to use more digital tools that make it convenient for providers to autofill and share forms.
  • Working with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to streamline and simplify 12 key government medical forms that are burdensome, as well as digitizing and integrating more forms into electronic medical records.
  • Accelerating the expansion of the centralized waitlist program for surgical and diagnostic services that will take the guesswork out of the referral process and provide faster access to care for patients.

Quick Facts

  • AI scribes will only be used during a visit if the patient gives their consent, and the privacy of patient health information will continue to be protected under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004.
  • Research shows using medical scribes reduced the time doctors spent on after-hours documentation by up to 50 per cent and helped clinicians see an additional 12 patients per month.
  • Across government and in collaboration with the Ontario Medical Association, the government is reviewing key forms to streamline and simplify them, minimize any duplication, and identify opportunities for digital solutions.
  • According to the Ontario Medical Association, family doctors spend 19 hours per week on administrative tasks, including four hours writing notes or completing forms for patients.
  • Most employees have the right to take up to three days of unpaid job-protected sick leave each calendar year due to a personal illness, injury or medical emergency. Proposed changes would prohibit employers from requiring sick notes from a qualified health practitioner in order for employees to take their entitled leave. Employers maintain the ability to require reasonable evidence from an employee that they were sick, such as an attestation or declaration.