Dealing With Administrative Burdens In Academic Medicine

Really, the word “Academic” could be dropped from that heading, because all medicine is subject to administrative burdens in today’s world. As much as anything, this is caused by the increase in legislation and regulation, and the need not only to comply but to be able to demonstrate compliance. If detailed records are not kept of everything that has been said and done (and why), together with everything that was not done (and why), then the need to be able to show compliance when something has gone wrong will not be satisfied.

Health records must be documented in full. Whether this is done with a pen or electronically is neither here nor there; the record must be kept and it must be easy to retrieve when needed. That means that the organization must provide efficient and effective record-keeping processes, together with reliable document storage and an unbreakable indexing system (by “unbreakable” what is meant is, “not susceptible to damage or breakdown” rather than “coded so that it can’t be read”).

The amount of the average working day for the average medical academic that is occupied by administration has been estimated to be about 25%. For some it will be a little more; for some it will be a little less; but at quarter is about the average. And that quarter of the working day is spent not only on protecting the physician, not only on protecting the entity by which the physician is employed, and not only for the sake of the paperwork itself; it is also essential to ensure that the healthcare being delivered is of the highest possible quality.

But does it have to be the physician who does the record-keeping? Chances are, 25% of the average academic physicians’ wage bill is more than 100% of the average skill support workers’ wage bill. So let’s put the record-keeping where it belongs: in the hands of support staff.