Defensive Medicine Costs Spelled Out
A recent survey revealed that 91 percent of physicians surveyed practice defensive medicine – they regularly order more tests and perform more procedures than are medically necessary in order to protect themselves from the possibility of being sued for medical malpractice.
This survey, by a team of researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, confirms that the fear of being sued is very real and pervasive throughout the entire spectrum of medical practice.
In addition, those surveyed responded that the “overwhelming majority of physicians support tort reform to decrease malpractice lawsuits and that unnecessary testing, a contributor to rising healthcare costs, will not decrease without it.”
Defensive medicine is expensive, inconvenient to both doctor and patient, compromises the relationship between provider and patient, and has no basis in evidence-based medical practice.
Unfortunately, the practice of defensive medicine decreases patient access to health care, and increases costs of healthcare for everyone. Some patients are left in the lurch as physicians avoid the sickest patients, or those requiring higher-risk procedures, in order to reduce their exposure to malpractice suits.
A 2008 study by the Massachusetts Medical Society found that 83% of its physicians practiced defensive medicine at a cost of more than $1.4 billion annually in that state alone.
To me, $1.4 billion in one state translates at a conservative estimate to at least $30 billion annually throughout the country.
I find the dollar cost of the practice of defensive medicine disturbing. I find the cost of the doctor-patient relationship, in which the physician views every patient as a potential lawsuit, rather than a person in need of healing, frightening and discouraging.
More medicine is not better medicine. Evidence-based, patient-centered medicine is better medicine.
Submitted by guest editor Debora Harvey