U.S. Physician Practices vs. Canadian Practices

Canadian physicians deal with a single payer that offers streamlined procedures for reporting and payment, whereas American physicians deal with multiple payers. And that difference has led to the fact that U.S. physician practices spend nearly four times as much as Canadian doctors when it comes to dealing with health insurers and payers, according to a new study in Health Affairs.

The multiple payers that American physicians have to deal with affects both the amount of time and money that practices spend. The study’s authors determined that physician practices in Ontario spent $22,205 per physician per year when it came to interacting with the single-payer agency. In comparison, U.S. practices spent $82,975 per physician per year to deal with the multiple payers.

On average, U.S. physicians spent 3.4 hours per week interacting with health plans, compared to the 2.2 hours per week spent by Canadian physicians.

And physicians aren’t the only people who find the multiple payers taking up a lot of their time. Medical assistants and nurses in the U.S. spend an average of 20.6 hours per physician per week on administrative duties. In Canada, they only spent 2.5 hours.

“The major difference between the United States and Ontario is that non-physician staff members in the United States spend large amounts of time obtaining prior authorizations and on billing,” says Dante Morra of the University of Toronto, the study’s lead author.

The study points out more efficient ways for physician practices to interact with health plans. The practices could reduce administrative costs by standardizing transactions and conducting them electronically rather than by email, fax or phone. Doing so would reduce the amount of phone call interruptions physicians and staff members have to deal with while they are caring for patients.