COMMENTARY

Prioritizing Patients Over Paperwork

Tom G. Bartol, NP

Disclosures

June 22, 2018

On October 26, 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a new program called Patients Over Paperwork. Their stated aims are to reduce unnecessary burden, increase efficiency, and improve the beneficiary experience."Our goal is to ease the paperwork burden placed on healthcare providers so they can focus on caring for the patient" is a direct quote from their promotional video.

The burden of paperwork in healthcare is growing. In contemporary vernacular, "paperwork" largely refers to electronic health record (EHR) documentation. A recent study[1] showed that clinicians spent twice as much time on EHR documentation and other "desk work" than on direct, face-to-face time with patients. Although EHRs have many benefits, they have also increased administrative burdens. The boxes we are asked to check off to show "meaningful use" and "patient-centered care" detract from putting patients first. Busy work is pushing us over the edge.

I applaud CMS for taking a stand on the issue of patients over paperwork. Whether the federal government can accomplish this remains to be seen, but by being aware that CMS is moving in this direction, we can similarly focus our efforts. Rather than criticizing how the federal government achieves this aim, let's jump on board with the concept. Let's change our work culture with this theme in mind, and talk it up among our colleagues, administrators, and payers so it becomes something everyone is thinking about daily.

Documentation and paperwork are overshadowing patient care, becoming detractors that do nothing to engage patients. Meanwhile, excellent, caring clinicians are burning out and leaving clinical practice because of the administrative burdens. It's time for a change that will put the patient back in the driver's seat, ahead of the computer. Find out more about Patients Over Paperwork here.

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