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The Boston Globe


June 19, 2012 | Ropper, Amato, and Samuels

Put away the red tape

As sure as if Medicare had given every doctor in the nation a stroke, your physician has become paralyzed. A surreal series of demands from insurance companies and Medicare for increasing amounts of documentation on every patient has produced large inefficiencies in modern medicine. Intended to trim costs and improve care, these rules have instead burdened doctors with needless, time-consuming paperwork. As the state and federal governments look for ways to cut health care costs, adding more paperwork requirements can’t be part of the solution. Instead, it’s time for government to free doctors to spend their time doctoring — not checking boxes on forms.

The insidious trend began 25 years ago when Medicare demanded that the record of an office visit include documentation of a specified number of items, whether they were relevant to a patient’s condition or not. For example, in our own specialty of neurology, it was necessary to examine every patient’s hearing and the power of their neck muscles in order to get paid a reasonable fee. Even a patient with a paralyzed leg or severe migraine has to have data dutifully recorded from 18 separate items that are entirely irrelevant to their problem.

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