A new study found that reforms to the healthcare system may result in an increased number of malpractice suits - here's why.
Healthcare reform is all about making the process of providing medical care and treatment to patients more efficient. According to a report from the Washington Post, however, a new study published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday suggests that cutting costs in healthcare could lead to a dramatic spike in malpractice lawsuits.
Scientists examined a sample of 24,000 physicians in Florida over a period of nine years and found that in six practices, the doctors who spent the most resources on their patients were much less likely to be sued. The study suggests that a greater amount of spending can lead to a better patient outcome in most cases.
The study fails to distinguish, however, if higher spending caused people to be less inclined to file a lawsuit, or if it actually resulted in a real decrease in medical errors. According to lead author Anupam Jena, an associate professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School, “The overall goals in health-care reform are to reduce spending. So that strategy has relied on physicians to reduce spending and overutilization, but by doing so you could imagine their liability risk goes up, and that could be a potential obstacle to getting physicians to buy in to what we’re trying to do as a society with healthcare.”
Many of the measures doctors take when treating patients are for the purpose of avoiding liability, and not preventing disease or negative medical outcomes. This often includes unnecessary screens, blood tests, or even admission to the hospital. This “defensive medicine” costs the United States and estimated $60 billion annually.
The study found that defensive medicine actually reduces the number of malpractice lawsuits in the country, regardless of whether or not the patient is receiving all necessary care.
A press release outlining the study’s findings can be found here.