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Battling Billing & Burnout: Dr. Nadia Alam shares her tips and tricks

Dr. Nadia Alam, MD, MSc HEPM, CCFP-A
Feb. 8, 2023
1-minute read
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According to the latest CMA physician health survey, doctors spend a staggering 10 hours each week on administrative tasks alone. Not surprisingly, the report also noted that nearly 1 in 2 physicians is burned out. Those of us practicing medicine know that burnout and administrative burden are deeply connected.

After a day of managing complex patient care, answering questions from staff, writing notes, reviewing labs and consults and imaging results, renewing prescriptions and responding to pharmacy requests, responding to requests for screening labs, tests and from specialists, squeezing in urgent patient requests and visits, and then juggling demands from my other professional obligations and needs of my young family, billing is often the last priority on my ever-expanding to-do list.

Billing can be especially frustrating because if it’s not done efficiently, it takes away from direct patient care. Clinic days are hectic enough, and if any unplanned events occur I have to scramble to just keep up. Most days, good and bad ones alike, I feel as if I’m just barely treading water. But at the end of the day, the billing process is the only way many specialists and family doctors are paid.

So to combat the burden before it amounts to administrative burnout, I actively look for and use tips and tricks to make my workday easier. This is what I’ve started doing —

Billing as I go

I try to bill as I go throughout the workday in order to stay on top of it and ensure I’m not left with a pile of administrative tasks at the end of the day. The world of healthcare is unpredictable, and this step, wherever possible, can help avoid the need for me to catch up late into the evening or on a day when I’m “free.”

Optimizing my clinical practice

As overhead costs increase — which they have done exponentially over the last 5 years — billing appropriately and on time as well as reconciling rejected billing codes make a world of difference in the viability of a family practice. I utilize as many tools available to make even ten minutes of my day easier to navigate. Saving even a few minutes means I can then go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat without running late to the next patient appointment or delaying the next task on my list. Saving just ten minutes can make the difference between a good day and a bad day at the office.

Using resources like the Dr.Bill app

Billing codes in Ontario have become more complex with each passing year, with many intricacies and rules to remember. Dr.Bill helps me not only submit my claims, it helps reconcile them, deal with rejected billings and teaches me which billing codes best reflect the work I’ve done. I not only save time billing, but feel I’m billing more fully and accurately for the work I do. This innovative way to tackle billing was created by the partner of an internal medicine specialist who was also struggling with the burden of excess admin work – this in particular, resonates with me.

Although billing and admin may only be a minor aspect of the business of medicine, it has a major impact on your life and career. One thing I know for sure is you cannot run a medical practice without the money to run a medical practice. So why not make it easier on yourself?

If you’re new to practice, I highly recommend Dr.Bill’s Ultimate Guide to OHIP Billing for support with billing properly and efficiently from the start. For family physician residents and physicians specifically, Dr. Steph’s Intro to Family Medicine Billing in Ontario video series is a must watch. 

Simple resources like this can make a world of a difference. After all, each hour you free up from another frustrating administrative task, like billing, is an hour you can put towards your patients, your family and yourself. 

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Dr. Nadia Alam, MD, MSc HEPM, CCFP-A
Dr. Nadia Alam is an established physician leader, strategist, and policy analyst. She combines 10 years of practical experience as a family doctor and anesthetist with five years of leadership, advocacy, and communication. She is a widely published writer and has spoken on many health policy issues, including primary care, health system design, performance metrics, burnout and pharmacare.
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