According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, medical malpractice costs in the United States amount to approximately $55.6 billion each year. The majority of this money ($45.6 billion) is spent on defensive medicine—care that does not further diagnosis or treatment and is intended only to reduce the risk of a medical malpractice claim. But does this methodology really work, or are physicians simply driving up the cost of healthcare? A recent study published in the medical journal BMJ may have an answer.
The Critics' Case Against Defensive Medicine
Despite estimates that between half and two-thirds of all U.S. doctors use defensive medicine, there is almost no evidence supporting its use. Critics of the practice also point out that a substantial fraction of medical malpractice claims actually stem from communication issues, and many contain no medical error whatsoever. And, although diagnostic errors are the leading cause of malpractice claims, most are said to be attributed to cognitive or system errors rather than a lack of resources.
So Why Use Defensive Medicine?
One must wonder, if there is so little evidence supporting benefits of defensive medicine, why do so many physicians use it? A survey from Becker's Hospital Review asked more than 1,500 physicians why they choose to practice defensive medicine. Most said they did so to avoid being named in a lawsuit. Almost half said they had already been through one malpractice suit, and they felt that defensive medicine might help them avoid another. Nearly 60 percent said they did so because patients or their family members demanded the extra care. And a little more than half of the physicians said they practiced it because they were afraid of missing something or making a mistake.
The Good News
The recently published BMJ study indicates there may, in fact, be benefits to using defensive medicine within certain practices. According to their analysis of 24,637 physicians, specialists who spent more on resources (diagnostic testing, preventative care, etc.) experienced a decreased risk of alleged medical malpractice incidents. While there could be many possible explanations as to why (such as a closer relationship because of extra treatment), the real takeaway is that there is now evidence supporting, defending, and possibly even encouraging the use of defensive medicine that could, in turn, improve patient safety.
Victim of Medical Malpractice? Seek Skilled Legal Help
Have you or someone you love has been subjected to the negligence or wrongdoing of a physician, hospital, nurse, or another healthcare provider? You may be entitled to compensation for your medical malpractice claim. These cases—complex and lengthy in nature—require the assistance of a skilled medical malpractice attorney.
At Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, P.C., we fight to protect the rights of ordinary people who have suffered death or injury due to negligence. With more than 75 years of combined experience, we have the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to represent your case effectively. Schedule your free initial consultation with one of our Chicago, Illinois medical malpractice attorneys by calling [[phone]] today.