Home Workplace News Ontario to eliminate use of doctor’s notes for short-term sick leave

Ontario to eliminate use of doctor’s notes for short-term sick leave

by HR Law Canada

Ontario is set to eliminate the requirement for employees to provide a doctor’s note to justify short-term sick leave. This move is part of a broader initiative by the provincial government to reduce the administrative burden on healthcare providers, allowing them to dedicate more time to patient care.

The Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Sylvia Jones, emphasized the practicality of these changes: “Our government is making common sense changes that will reduce the administrative burden on family doctors so that they can spend more time caring for patients instead of doing duplicative or unnecessary paperwork.”

The policy shift aims to discourage the use of sick notes, which has been described as an onerous process that often does little more than add to the workload of already overburdened healthcare professionals. Employers will be encouraged to accept other forms of attestation, preserving accountability while easing the load on healthcare systems.

Concurrently, the province is expanding the use of artificial intelligence in medical settings. Over 150 primary care providers will now employ AI technology to transcribe or summarize patient conversations into electronic medical records—a move expected to improve patient interactions and record accuracy.

This initiative is a part of the “Your Health: A Plan For Connected and Convenient Care” strategy, which also includes measures like the “Axe the fax” campaign to phase out fax machines, enhancing digital services and eForms, and expanding centralized waitlists for surgeries and diagnostics. These changes are projected to save up to 95,000 hours annually for physicians, which can be redirected towards patient care.

Dr. David Daien from OntarioMD highlighted the importance of this shift: “OntarioMD is very proud to be leading this innovative evaluation of AI scribe technology. It is critical that we test new technologies to make sure they meet the needs of Ontario patients and doctors. Artificial Intelligence based technology has tremendous potential to support our healthcare system.”

Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President of the Ontario College of Family Physicians, shared her perspective on the removal of sick note requirements: “Eliminating unnecessary sick notes is an important change for which the Ontario College of Family Physicians has advocated. While we know that much more needs to be done to address the administrative issues that take up to 19 hours a week, this is an important step to ensure that more Ontarians can see their family doctor.”

The initiative has received positive feedback from healthcare professionals like Mohamed Alarakhia, a Family Physician and CEO of the eHealth Centre of Excellence, who noted the beneficial impact of AI scribes: “Using an AI Scribe has allowed me to focus more on listening to a patient’s concerns and working collaboratively to develop a management plan. It has significantly reduced the burden of documentation so I can serve my patients better.”

David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, tied these healthcare initiatives into broader labor policies: “Our government is putting patients before paperwork and tackling the red tape burden for healthcare workers by proposing legislation to prohibit employers from requiring a sick note for a worker’s job-protected sick leave.”

This policy is aligned with efforts by various government departments to utilize AI and digital solutions to enhance public services, ensuring that privacy and security guidelines are meticulously followed. Todd McCarthy, Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery, affirmed the commitment to responsible AI use: “AI has the potential to transform vital programs and services to better serve the people of Ontario. We are leading the way in strengthening the guidance for using AI responsibly across the government and broader public sector to protect privacy and personal information and enhance online security.”

Dr. Andrew Park from the Ontario Medical Association praised the government’s proactive stance: “Reducing the administrative burden of Ontario’s physicians is critical in improving our health-care system, and today’s announcement is a positive step forward.”

These initiatives mark a crucial step towards streamlining healthcare in Ontario, focusing on technological advancements and regulatory reforms to improve the efficacy and accessibility of medical care for all Ontarians.

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