New Study Calculates Number of Defensive Tests Ordered
We are all familiar with the concept of defensive medicine: physicians ordering extra tests or procedures, not because they deem them medically necessary or insightful into their patient’s care, but instead to protect themselves against a med mal lawsuit, should one be brought against them. This, combined with excellent med mal coverage, seems to be most physicians’ strategy in protecting themselves against a med mal lawsuit.
A new study done in Pennsylvania tracked 72 orthopedic surgeons and the tests that they ordered on 2,068 mostly adult patients. Physicians were asked if the tests they ordered were for clinical reasons or “for defensive reasons.” The study revealed some interesting insights into physicians’ views on med mal and how vulnerable they felt.
Most interestingly, the study revealed that newer physicians ordered less tests for defensive reasons than more experienced physicians. One would think that these physicians would be more likely to “cover” themselves, and fear a med mal lawsuit, considering they have less clinical experience and judgment. However, there might be an explanation in the findings. Physicians who were sued for med mal in the last five years were the group most likely to order tests for defensive purposes. A physician who participated in the study theorized that physicians develop a “radar” for potential patients who might be likely to sue for medical liability. It would make sense that these are physicians who have been sued and in practice longer. In other words, once burned, twice shy.
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Study: Doctors order tests out of fear of lawsuits
By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, Ap Medical Writer – Wed Feb 16, 6:56 pm ET
SAN DIEGO – CT scans, MRIs and other pricey imaging tests are often more for the doctor’s benefit than the patient’s, new research confirms.
Roughly one-fifth of tests that bone and joint specialists order are because a doctor fears being sued, not because the patient needs them, a first-of-its-kind study in Pennsylvania suggests.