Doctors across the country are making use of a tactic that has become popular among those who practice medicine. This tactic is known as defensive medicine or defensive medical decision-making. Defensive medicine is the practice of providing medical services in such a way that is not exactly in the patient’s best interest. Instead, defensive medicine revolves around doctors attempting to absolve themselves of any liability. What does it mean for patients? Sometimes it means subjecting a patient to unnecessary tests, sometimes it means refusing to provide medical services. This can potentially mean higher medical costs for patients. But does this method really work? The Albany Daily Star reported on a study that attempted to answer just that.
Examining over 4,300 medical malpractice claims, the study found that when hospital spending increased, the rate of medical malpractice claims filed decreased. Specifics of the survey showed that the doctors who were in the bottom 20% of hospital spending were at a higher percentage of risk for a medical malpractice suit. The doctors at the top of the list for higher hospital spending costs were by comparison at a much lower risk percentage for a medical malpractice suit.
Separate studies cited in the article also showed similar patterns. An analysis of an attending physician at a hospital showed that “greater average spending by physicians was associated with reduced risk of a lawsuit.” More results fortified the claims that “defensive medicine” actually works. Another study reported in the BMJ, showed that the years in which doctors spent more, held a smaller percentage of risk for a medical malpractice suit.
What Does This Mean For The Patient?
What does this mean? Essentially, one can make the conclusion that “defensive medicine” may actually be paying off for these doctors. The study shows a correlation between higher spending and lower chances for a malpractice suit. Subjecting patients to tests that may not be in their best interest seems to be working out… for just the doctors. The patients, on the other hand, are met with higher medical bills and bothersome tests. Lab tests are expensive and take a significant amount of time for results. This means that patients are spending more to see their doctors fiddle around with tests they don’t need. All of this is happening while the patient’s condition may need immediate attention.
Defensive medical practice is a costly and time-consuming method that doctors will use to save themselves if they assume a patient will sue. This practice does nothing for the patient, and simply gives hospitals and doctors more money while simultaneously working to attempt to protect them from liability. With defensive medicine seemingly becoming the new norm, it seems only patients end up suffering.
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