Study shows malpractice suits are lower if doctors spend more on patients.
Research has shown that doctors who spend the most on testing for hospitalized patients have the lowest likelihood of being hit with a malpractice lawsuit, according to a washingtonpost.com story.
The research team, led by Anupam Jena, associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, followed over 24,000 physicians in Florida for a nine-year period, and found the statement to be true across six different physician specialties
The data the researcher uncovered revealed that those physicians who ordered more testing and overall spent more money in the treatment and diagnosis of the illness, did not get sued as much as those who spent less, but it doesn’t provide all the answers.
The big question is did the extra spending cause the number of malpractice suits to reduce, or did more testing result in fewer misdiagnosis or physician errors, and resulted in better health care and fewer lawsuits.
It has been reported that physicians sometimes order extra blood testing, imaging, or even hospitalization, to protect themselves from the possibility of a malpractice suit and this extra care doesn’t come without a cost to the patient or the insurance company.
According to the story, defensive medicine in the United States is estimated to be costing $60 billion per year, and some are questioning if the cost is justified.
The study seems to suggest that it is working out for the doctors. An example given in which internal medicine doctors who average almost $40,000 per admission are five times less likely to be sued as those who averaged about half that amount was cited.
Additionally, obstetricians that performed the fewest number of Cesarean sections, often seen as a form of defensive medicine, were twice as likely to be sued within the year as those who performed the most C sections.
There are a number of limitation on the study and the authors quickly point out that more research needs to be completed. Since the research was completed on only one state, the results may be different in other areas of the country where illnesses may be occurring at different rates. Also, it needs to be taken into account if any of the doctors had any prior malpractice suits.
There will be pressure from all sides on the issue. Insurance companies and payers are looking to cut back on unnecessary spending to reduce costs and lower insurance premiums, and doctors are looking to provide the best care for their patients, while also protecting themselves from malpractice suits.
Unfortunately, caught in the middle is the patient, who simply wants the best treatment for the illness they have.