The Medical Paperwork Reduction Act of 2016

Sick care is broken. The processes of delivering care to patients and families are burdensome, time consuming, frustrating, laden with administrivia, and causing a deterioration of how doctors, nurses and other medical personnel deal with those who need their care. It is particularly irksome for the increasing numbers of seniors with chronic, complex illnesses taking multiple medications. 

The causes are many, but fundamentally the result is that care providers spend less time taking care of patients and more and more time coding, tracking, typing, telephoning, storing, and sending stuff. It's time for Congress to pass the Medical Paperwork Reduction Act of 2016.  

1. Call a moratorium on EMRs until there is a Joint Industry-End User-Government advisory task force mandate to get it right.

2. Relax penalties for ICD-10 mandates since that horse is already out of the barn.

3. Mandate that any future regulations affecting medical administrative processes come with a fiscal impact statement and a funding mechanism to cover the costs.  

4. A public awareness campaign by doctors informing patients how paperwork and processes are damaging their care. 

5. A focus on care process innovation. 

6. A focus on business process innovation and outsourcing. Maybe even an X prize for the best ideas to radically reduce administrivia. 

7. Track time spent taking care of the patient versus taking care of the EMR or chart and target SMART goal reductions and ways to achieve them.

8. Train adminstrivia assistants, expanding the role of scribes and other clerical personnel. 

9. Stop unfunded mandates for care providers. 

10. Educate and train residents and fellows during their last 3 months of training before sending them to the front. Most medical students have little or no interest.

Given the present political gridlock, most of this is unlikely but a must. And, when paperwork reduction acts get passed, voters roll their eyes when they learn the act is 785 pages long that becomes even worse by the time the regulations to enforce it are written. 

We can continue to be cynical and angry, or we can stare the problem in the eyes and fix it. Patients and doctors are slowly asphyxiating in more and more things that are distracting them from getting and giving care. It is damaging relationships, costing an absurd amount of money, and burning out doctors.

Enough already. We need to come up for air.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA
Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado School of Medicine and CO School of Public Health
President and CEO, Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE) at
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