Reducing administrative burdens: 5 chief medical officers weigh in

The number of hours physicians spend doing paperwork and other administrative duties rose to more than 15 hours a week in 2021, up from 10 hours per week in 2018, according to a Medscape report.

Becker's asked five chief medical officers to share the most valuable initiative they have taken in the past year to reduce administrative burdens that keep them away from the work of practicing medicine. Among the measures they have taken: reducing Zoom calls and using automation strategically.

Here are the five responses.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Zenobia Brown, MD. Associate Chief Medical Officer at Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.): One focus area for Northwell is automation of data that flows through our healthcare processes. As a healthcare system, we find we have more and more access to different sources and types of data. Historically, taking those data points, getting them into usable formats and then into the hands of the right people has relied on manual processes. Creating automations that put actionable information where our team members and patients can most use it is an organizational priority.

Michael Palumbo, MD. Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of White Plains (N.Y.) Hospital: I have found that building an effective team structure is the most valuable way to share responsibility and reduce redundancy, which spreads the administrative load. 

As a specific example, over the three past years, we restructured our quality team, including a data analytics team, which allows us to be laser focused on all aspects of quality. This has resulted in greater efficiency and enhanced patient outcomes throughout the hospital and our physicians' practices.

Michael Rossi, MD. Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network (Allentown, Pa.): We've committed to improving the experience for all colleagues. One concrete example is cutting down standard meeting time to 30 or 45 minutes rather than the typical pre-pandemic one hour. 

Another network initiative is focused on "GROSS" — Getting Rid of Silly Stuff. For me, this has included simplifying approval processes, streamlining business plans as well as leveraging technology by using electronic signatures. 

Lastly, ensuring that we have developed our clinical leadership to be "top of license" as leaders (not just as clinicians) through LVHN's Physician Leadership Academy has been beneficial by enhancing wellness and resilience as well as reducing administrative oversight burden on me as chief clinical officer.

Richard Shannon, MD. Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer of Duke University Health System (Durham, N.C.): The best way to shed administrative burden (or waste) is a regular calendar exercise. Look at your Outlook calendar. Ask yourself how many of the meetings that I attend in a week truly align with my organization’s priorities? How many support my teammates? 

Take one-third of your unnecessary Zooms (if you are honest, there will be at least that many) and translate the time into visiting the clinical units you oversee, engage the actual people doing the actual work — in the actual place where the work is done. A personal "go and see" establishes respect for the work and the team that cannot be conveyed remotely.

Dr. Rohit Varma. Chief Medical Officer, CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (Los Angeles): The single most important change I have made is to begin using a project management software which helps me identify and focus on what's important at a particular time. It helps me manage various teams and projects by organizing their work in one place for efficient and effective collaboration.

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