Canadian doctors spend millions of hours on unnecessary paperwork: What are governments doing about it?

New report spotlights governments that accepted CFIB’s challenge to reduce red tape in health care

Toronto, February 1, 2024 – Jurisdictions across Canada are starting to make progress in reducing physician red tape, reveals a new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released today as part of the 15th annual Red Tape Awareness WeekTM.

In last year’s Patients before Paperwork report, CFIB estimated that Canadian doctors are spending 18.5 million hours on unnecessary administrative work and challenged all governments to help physicians better manage patient backlog. A year later, a new snapshot spotlights governments that accepted CFIB’s challenge and reiterates the need to make red tape reduction in health care a priority. 

“We’re glad to see provincial governments start to tackle unnecessary administrative tasks for doctors. Too much paperwork causes physician burnout and prevents them from seeing their existing patients and taking on new ones,” said SeoRhin Yoo, CFIB policy analyst and co-author of the report. “While the first year has been encouraging, there is still a lot of work to do to hit CFIB’s recommended 10% reduction target to free up 1.85 million hours or the equivalent of 5.6 million patient visits across the country.”

Nova Scotia and Manitoba are leading the way by measuring the administrative burden on physicians and setting a reduction target. The two provinces have achieved significantly more progress than the rest of the country, with Nova Scotia having eliminated an estimated 250,000 hours of unnecessary physician paper burden and Manitoba creating a joint task force with CFIB and Doctors Manitoba to take an inventory of the time physicians spend on paperwork and setting a reduction target. 

Some provinces like Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have implemented positive initiatives — labour mobility rules, dedicated working groups, and electronic medical records — to reduce red tape in health care. However, these initiatives fall short of the necessary efforts required to broadly alleviate the physician administrative burden and improve access for citizens seeking medical care.  

“Better access to care requires a healthy physician workforce,” said Dr. Kathleen Ross, Canadian Medical Association President. “Nearly 60% of Canadian doctors say that administrative burden directly contributes to worsening mental health, according to our National Physician Health Survey, and 75% say it gets in the way of caring for their patients. Reducing unnecessary paperwork improves physician wellness and retention and improves access.”

More work must be done
Unfortunately, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut along with the federal government are falling behind and have yet to take any action to reduce the physician administrative burden.

“Health care challenges are affecting not only citizens, but small business owners as well, including family doctors that own practices. In fact, a strong majority of small businesses we surveyed want governments to reduce unnecessary paperwork for physicians so the latter can focus on patient visits,” Yoo added. “Governments at all levels need to move quickly to prevent further burnout and shortage of healthcare professionals.” 

While CFIB is encouraged to see some provinces starting to make progress, a lot more needs to be done to have a real impact on the ground. CFIB urges all governments to:

  • Measure the total physician administrative burden.
  • Identify the impact of the physician administrative burden.
  • Identify the sources of physician administrative burden and top irritants to resolve.
  • Set a reduction target (such as 10%) and identify short, medium, and long-term actions to achieve the target.
  • Publicly report on progress annually.
  • Assign responsibility for physician red tape reduction to a specific entity with dedicated resources to begin the work.

“Reducing the physician administrative burden is a concrete way government can, and should, use to help address issues facing Canada’s health care systems,” said Keyli Loeppky, CFIB director of interprovincial affairs. “The progress we’re seeing so far is promising, but there’s still a long way to go. We continue to call on all governments to make reducing physician red tape a priority to help address overarching health care challenges.”

This year’s Red Tape Awareness Week is presented in partnership with Intuit QuickBooks.

Read the full snapshot here .

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB

For Dr. Kathleen Ross, please contact:
Elena Gabrysz, 514 839-7296
Eric Lewis, 506-566-1671 

About CMA
The Canadian Medical Association leads a national movement with physicians who believe in a better future of health. Our ambition is a sustainable, accessible health system where patients are partners, a culture of medicine that elevates equity, diversity and wellbeing, and supportive communities where everyone has the chance to be healthy. We drive change through advocacy, giving and knowledge sharing – guided by values of collaboration and inclusion.

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at