KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Complicating Doctors’ Work: Prescription Drug Scams And Excessive Paper Work

News outlets examine two issues affecting doctors' work: patients fraudulently seeking prescriptions and overwhelming paper work.

CNN: "The issue of doctor shopping -- visiting numerous doctors to fraudulently get prescription drugs -- has been raised in numerous celebrity deaths, including Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson and Health Ledger. ... Doctor shoppers often visit facilities where medical professionals don't know them, experts say. They also call during weekends or ask for prescription refills using excuses such as having dropped the pills in toilets or getting pills wet on a camping trip, physicians said. Misuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem. Estimated hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers increased 65 percent from 1999 to 2006, according to a study in the May edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine" (Park, 4/7).

The New York Times: "Paperwork, or documentation, takes up as much as a third of a physician's workday; and for many practicing doctors, these administrative tasks have become increasingly intolerable, a source of deteriorating professional morale. ... But despite the paperwork burden, there are few studies on the amount of time current doctors devote to charting, ordering, filling out forms and dictating. That is, except among one subset of doctors - doctors-in-training, or residents."

"According to a study published earlier this year, residents now spend up to twice as much time on documentation as their counterparts did two decades earlier. Analyzing the results of a national survey of over 15,000 trainees in internal medicine, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found that a majority of residents reported spending as many as six hours a day documenting, while only a small fraction of residents spent as much time with patients. In other words, young people who are learning to doctor spend as much time writing, typing or dictating about their patients as they do seeing them" (Chen, 4/8).

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