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Physicians Inch Toward Boiling Point

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 4, 2012

Defensive Medicine
The survey is certainly the latest, and—by sheer numbers—one of the more telling reports on physician attitudes about defensive medicine and malpractice concerns. It also reveals what doctors see as a major cost driver of healthcare.

When asked what two factors "do you find least satisfying about the medical practice," 40.3% said it was "liability/defensive medicine pressures." Other reasons lagged much further behind. Other "least satisfying" aspects included dealing with Medicare/Medicaid/government regulations (27.4%) and  reimbursement issues (27.3%).

In the meantime, 69.1% of physicians said defensive medicine is the "number one ranked factor" driving up healthcare costs. The survey described the ordering of tests, prescribing of drugs, and conducting of procedures done "partly or solely to drive a wedge against potential malpractice lawsuits." 

Defensive medicine costs approximately $45.6 billion a year in the U.S., according to The Physicians Foundation survey.

"Physicians understand to some degree that's the cost of doing business, but the defensive medicine goes deeper than that, in the ordering of extra tests, doing the extra procedures, and extra scans to protect [oneself]  against a malpractice suit. It's that four-legged stool, the liability that [prompts] defensive medicine."

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3 comments on "Physicians Inch Toward Boiling Point"


Insight 101 (10/8/2012 at 3:49 PM)
Its not MP either. Look at costs in TX where tort reform occured in the early 00's. If tort reform solved the defensive medicine arguement we'd have lower costs but it's just not so. FFS medicine is the driver based on high cost of services coupled with lack of coordination of services, lack of MD communication, lack of meaningful data sharing by insurance plans, laziness in care delivery, patient compliance and/or patient noncompliance and poor the health behavior we exhibit as a nation.

Marit Brock (10/5/2012 at 11:09 AM)
I have to agree with the previous comment. These stories don't seem to change over time and physicians don't actually appear to be quitting in droves. I wonder what the burnout rates of Physician Practice Administrators would show. Cynical comments aside, I do think these issues are real and could/should be addressed in our healthcare system. However, I don't believe that we will make any meaningful progress if we continue to take the approach of "we have to fix this for the physicians". Instead, there has to be a way to get physicians engaged so that we can "fix this WITH the physicians."

Bram Barker (10/4/2012 at 3:14 PM)
Doctors have threatened to quit for forever. No one does because they have no other skills. These stories just get monotonous.