Medical malpractice related costs have taken a considerably large toll on the American healthcare system for years. These costs persist directly through skyrocketing malpractice premiums, which translates to higher expenses for patients and insurance companies. Moreover, they affect the healthcare system indirectly by prompting medical professionals to recklessly practice defensive medicine.
A medical professional who practices defensive medicine is described as someone who overuses medical services in an effort to protect themselves from malpractice liability. Doctors may perform a procedure that is not clinically necessary, for example, to decrease the likelihood of them missing something, as well as the probability of their patient ensuing legal recourse.
Researchers have gained conclusive proof of its existence and have shed light on the practice’s ruinous effect on the healthcare system and patients alike. But it essentially remains difficult to measure the havoc it’s wreaking on U.S. healthcare spending. A few years ago, The Cleveland Clinic provided a vague estimation of the total national cost, racking up to a whopping $650 billion, only to note that this total was measured indirectly. The American Medical Association as well as other groups have released several studies since then, estimating even higher costs.
Although defensive medicine may be considered one of the by-products of the continually rising rates of medical malpractice, it’s important to note that malpractice isn’t the only causation of this practice. Some physicians are driven by an actual concern for their patients. But a survey released by Jackson Healthcare, the nation’s third largest healthcare staffing agency, revealed that these doctors are in the minority. An alarming 75% of doctors admitted that they order more procedures, tests and medicines than are medically required to avoid lawsuits.
These statistics have caused researchers to pose a universal question: what can be done to deter physicians from using defensive medicine? Many politicians have suggested that states exercise tort reform – a push to enact more damage caps, and make filing a lawsuit increasingly difficult for the injured. But in states where these regulations are enacted (California, Texas and Massachusetts) researchers have seen no decline in the rates of defensive medicine. In fact, another survey released by Jackson Healthcare revealed that 77% of physicians in Texas admitted that they have still not stopped practicing defensive medicine despite the state’s relatively new non-economic damage cap.
Researchers have concluded that doctors operate in this practice based on a perceived risk of legal recourse. Therefore, minimizing the risk of being sued doesn’t do any good. The only way to completely eradicated defensive medicine it to make it impossible for doctors to be sued for medical malpractice – an unattainable and unconstitutional ideal.
But instead of focusing on restricting a patient’s capacity to initiate litigation, many researchers believe that an emphasis should be placed on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. Maybe then doctors will gain enough confidence to ditch the defensive measures.
If you or a loved one has been harmed in the care of a medical professional or hospital, you may be entitled to compensation. Attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian are willing to fight for your rights. Call their office at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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