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Form guide to cutting red tape

The AMA has declared war on unnecessary bureaucratic red tape, issuing guidelines for the design of medical forms and reports that gather critical information in a way that minimises the burden on doctors.

In the course of their daily practise, medical practitioners are required to fill out multiple forms for Government departments including Centrelink, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and State and Territory WorkCover authorities, with research showing GPs spent an average of 4.6 hours a week on red tape in 2011 – valuable time that the AMA said could otherwise be spent with patients.

The AMA said that although much of the data provided was vital in helping determine patient entitlements, and could have serious consequences for the effective provision of medical services, often forms also asked for details that were repetitive, extraneous or unnecessarily intrusive in nature, and could be dropped or amended without affecting the quality of information provided.

“We understand that organisations depend heavily upon the accurate completion of medical forms to determine patient entitlements,” AMA Vice President Dr Stephen Parnis said. “Unfortunately, many fail to appreciate the real time implications for doctors having to complete these forms. The key is to focus on obtaining necessary information that is easily accessible, and which does not require doctors and medical practices spending excessive time filling in forms.”

“Doctors prefer spending time on patient care, not bureaucracy,” Dr Parnis said.

The AMA has set out 10 standards that it is asking Government departments and other organisations to take into account when designing medical forms.

These include ensuring that doctors are asked to supply only essential information, that patient privacy is protected as much as possible, and that the forms be available in an electronic format compatible with, and available through, existing medical practice software.

In addition, the AMA said forms must carry clear notification that doctors can charge a reasonable fee for their services.

The Association said that in designing forms, government departments and other organisations often failed to take into account the implications for doctors, and suggested that forms be field tested under the supervision of a representative of the AMA or other medical organisation prior to their release.

“The AMA believes that medical forms can be designed in a way that captures the necessary information in a more simple and concise way,” Dr Parnis said. “Our Guide can help organisations design forms that do not impose unnecessary red tape and compliance costs on busy doctors.”

Adrian Rollins