Study Finds Majority of Physicians Practice Defensive Medicine

A survey by Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers has found that 91% of physicians believe concerns regarding malpractice lawsuits result in defensive medicine — ordering more tests and procedures than necessary as a protective measure. Researchers questioned 2,416 physicians for the recently published study.

A majority of physicians, 90.7%, also believe that better protections against unwarranted malpractice suits are needed in order to decrease the ordering of unnecessary medical tests.

“About $60 billion is spent annually on defensive medicine and many physicians feel they are vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits even when they practice competently within the standard of care,” Tara Bishop, MD, associate of general internal medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-author of the study, stated in a press release. “The study shows that an overwhelming majority of physicians support tort reform to decrease malpractice lawsuits and that unnecessary testing, a contributor to rising health care costs, will not decrease without it.”

Researchers conducted the national survey of physicians from a variety of practice and specialty backgrounds from June 25, 2009 to Oct. 31, 2009.

Physicians were asked to rate their level of agreement to two statements: “Doctors order more tests and procedures than patients need to protect themselves against malpractice suits” and “Unnecessary use of diagnostic tests will not decrease without protections for physicians against unwarranted malpractice suits.”

Response options were on a five-point scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” There were no statistically significant differences between sex, geographic location, specialty category, or type of practice.

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