Ontario Helping Family Doctors Put Patients before Paperwork

Initiatives will save doctors 95,000 hours that can now be spent caring for people

TORONTO —The Ontario government is taking further action to help family doctors and other primary care providers spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork.

“Our government is making common sense changes that will reduce the administrative burden on family doctors so that they can spend more time caring for patients instead of doing duplicative or unnecessary paperwork,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

The government will allow primary care providers to spend more time with patients by making changes that encourage employers to use other tools instead of sick notes, such as attestations, that will help maintain accountability as employees request time off sick. The province is also expanding an innovative program to more than 150 primary care providers that safely uses artificial intelligence to automatically summarise or transcribe conversations with patients who consent into electronic medical notes. This will result in a better patient experience and more accurate records.

These initiatives, in addition to other changes aimed at putting patients over paperwork, will free up to 95,000 hours annually for physicians to put back into their practices caring for patients, including:

  • “Axe the fax” to replace fax machines over the next few years to speed up diagnosis, referrals and treatments while improving the privacy of patient’s health information.
  • Expanding eServices to digitize more referral and consultation forms so they can be conveniently shared electronically in a timely manner to obtain specialist advice, often eliminating the need for an in-person specialist visit entirely.
  • Improving the eForms platform to use more digital tools that make it convenient for providers to autofill and share forms.
  • Working with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to streamline and simplify 12 key government medical forms that are burdensome, as well as digitizing and integrating more forms into electronic medical records.
  • Accelerating the expansion of the centralized waitlist program for surgical and diagnostic services that will take the guesswork out of the referral process and provide faster access to care for patients.

Cutting unnecessary paperwork like sick notes and streamlining note taking during patient appointments are more ways that the Ontario government, through Your Health: A Plan For Connected and Convenient Care, is making it easier and faster for people to connect to the care they need, where and when they need it.

Quick Facts

  • AI scribes will only be used during a visit if the patient gives their consent, and the privacy of patient health information will continue to be protected under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004.
  • Research shows using medical scribes reduced the time doctors spent on after-hours documentation by up to 50 per cent and helped clinicians see an additional 12 patients per month.
  • Across government and in collaboration with the Ontario Medical Association, the government is reviewing key forms to streamline and simplify them, minimize any duplication, and identify opportunities for digital solutions.
  • According to the Ontario Medical Association, family doctors spend 19 hours per week on administrative tasks, including four hours writing notes or completing forms for patients.
  • Most employees have the right to take up to three days of unpaid job-protected sick leave each calendar year due to a personal illness, injury or medical emergency. Proposed changes would prohibit employers from requiring sick notes from a qualified health practitioner in order for employees to take their entitled leave. Employers maintain the ability to require reasonable evidence from an employee that they were sick, such as an attestation or declaration.


“OntarioMD is very proud to be leading this innovative evaluation of AI scribe technology. It is critical that we test new technologies to make sure they meet the needs of Ontario patients and doctors. Artificial Intelligence based technology has tremendous potential to support our healthcare system and this study will review the clinical, legal and privacy implications to ensure it best addresses system needs.”

– Dr. David Daien
OntarioMD & Primary Care Doctor at Summerville Family Health Team

“The OCFP welcomes the government’s commitments to reduce administrative burden through ongoing efforts, including piloting AI scribes and eliminating sick notes. Eliminating unnecessary sick notes is an important change for which the Ontario College of Family Physicians has advocated. While we know that much more needs to be done to address the administrative issues that take up to 19 hours a week, this is an important step to ensure that more Ontarians can see their family doctor. We remain committed to continuing to work with the Ontario government on solutions to ensure that family doctors have the support they need to help ensure every Ontarian has access to a family doctor.”

– Dr. Mekalai Kumanan
President, Ontario College of Family Physicians

“Using an AI Scribe has allowed me to focus more on listening to a patient’s concerns and working collaboratively to develop a management plan. It has significantly reduced the burden of documentation so I can serve my patients better. Primary Care Providers need these types of supports so they can spend more time with patients.”

– Mohamed Alarakhia
Family Physician and CEO of the eHealth Centre of Excellence

“Our government is putting patients before paperwork and tackling the red tape burden for healthcare workers by proposing legislation to prohibit employers from requiring a sick note for a worker’s job-protected sick leave. This will complement the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s efforts to collaborate with health sector organizations as they explore additional measures to reduce the administrative burden for sick or injured workers and healthcare professionals.”

– David Piccini
Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development

“AI has the potential to transform vital programs and services to better serve the people of Ontario. We are leading the way in strengthening the guidance for using AI responsibly across the government and broader public sector to protect privacy and personal information and enhance online security.”

– Todd McCarthy
Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery

“Reducing the administrative burden of Ontario’s physicians is critical in improving our health-care system, and today’s announcement is a positive step forward. We encourage government to continue taking action, making the investments necessary and working with OMA every step of the way, to build the health-care system Ontarians deserve.”

– Dr. Andrew Park
Ontario Medical Association

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