This is by no means unique to my practice — respondents to the Canadian Medical Association’s latest National Physician Health Survey spent an average of 10 hours per week on administrative tasks. Canadians are living longer and many are living longer with multiple chronic medical conditions. The more complex a patient’s concerns are, the more time-intensive associated administrative tasks will be.
Let’s use the example of a patient with multiple chronic medical problems presenting for an office visit. If they haven’t been in for a while, they might have three or four issues to discuss. One might require a specialist’s opinion, another may require blood work, and one more could involve changes to their medication. Even if I’m being highly optimistic and the visit takes 20 minutes, the work involved afterwards may include charting, creating and sending a referral supported by the appropriate investigations and setting alerts within my electronic medical record (EMR), among other time-intensive tasks.
Even something as seemingly simple as creating a prescription involves complexities that ensure patients receive their medication in a safe and timely manner. With health systems nationwide struggling with physician shortages, it’s increasingly important to prioritize implementing digital health tools that streamline cumbersome processes and allow health care providers to focus more of their time on direct patient care. Tools like PrescribeIT®, a national e-prescribing service, can help streamline the prescription process by connecting prescribers to community-based retail pharmacies, enabling the digital transmission of prescriptions.
Any time an element of a patient’s care is transferred to another member of their care team, be it a pharmacist or a specialist referral, maintaining effective communication within the patient’s circle of care is essential, and this takes much more time than most Canadians might realize. When we consider 55 per cent of adults aged 18 to 79 use at least one prescription medication each month (according to Statistics Canada), we begin to understand how quickly this time can add up. Tools like e-prescribing enable pharmacies to receive prescriptions directly into their pharmacy management system.
It is reassuring to know checks and balances exist within the system to ensure the safety of the patient. In the dispensing process, questions and concerns from the patient’s pharmacy team can often arise when new medications are prescribed, particularly in the case of patients with more complex conditions. Traditionally, health care has relied heavily on fax, with some phone calls mixed in. Having tools in place that prioritize communication between health care providers, such as PrescribeIT’s integrated clinical communications tool, enables the prescriber and pharmacy to communicate directly, quickly address clarifications and align on next steps.
As we look to address challenges in health care delivery, implementing tools that streamline daily processes and best practices are fundamental steps we can take right now. e-Prescribing should become a future best practice for medication management so that health care providers have more bandwidth for what matters most: patient care.
This blog post originally appeared as an article in the Toronto Sun.
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