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Defensive Medicine - Still a Concern for Doctors

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 2:48 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Defensive Medicine, Medical Malpractice, Healthcare Costs, CBO

Defensive Medicine Protects Doctors?


IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ toe tag following medical malpractice/ author: lisafx

Doctors say they worry about medical malpractice lawsuits, so much so that they are ordering unnecessary tests and procedures.

This latest survey of 1,231 doctors is published in a research letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found 91% of respondents “reported believing that physicians order more tests and procedures than needed to protect themselves from malpractice suits," reports the Wall Street Journal.

It did not matter much whether the doctor was a specialist or a generalist. The only significant differences in responses was seen between men (93%) and women (87%).

Any reduction in tests should be accompanied by some additional protection against lawsuits, doctors say.

Defensive medicine is defined as including extra tests or procedures primarily to reduce malpractice liability. Some IB contributors have suggested that ordering extra tests when a doctor knows they are not necessary amounts to insurance fraud.

Many patients indicate they would rather be overtreated than undertreated, and many doctors want to order more tests to offer comprehensive care.

In some cases doctors make more money when they order additional tests.

Defensive medicine is estimated to cost as much as $60 billion a year according to the authors. Medical malpractice litigation costs the medical profession about $30 billion a year.

Public Citizen has called the exaggerated estimated risk of being sued “fear-mongering.” In 2004, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that medical malpractice costs amount to less than 2 percent of overall healthcare spending in 2002. #

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