Defensive medicine in the news

Anyone who reads this blog knows what I think about defensive medicine, and how I feel it is one of the leading factors in rising health care costs today.

Two articles in the news highlight this. The first one suggests that defensive medicine practices are spreading to paramedics:

“I think that for most physicians now, it’s the fear of being sued for missing a diagnosis,” said Scott Maizel, a surgeon at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and former president of the Maryland Chapter of the College of Surgeons. “Physicians are now performing more tests, (writing) more referrals and frequently require more visits back to the doctor to make sure nothing was missed.”

Besides physicians, many prehospital professionals are also taking precautions.

Ocean City Fire/EMS Capt. Charles Barton said while liability for prehospital care is lower for EMTs and paramedics, there is still concern.

“I think most people are concerned about liability issues,” he said. “(However), risks can be managed and liability can be reduced.”

The second asks some questions that policy wonks and lawyers seem to ignore:

Twenty percent of the time or less, more in-depth testing and treatment is required.(These are called”zebras” – which are uncommon.) “Defensive medicine” is when those extra tests, procedures and treatments are done on the common illnesses(zebra tests on horses). Why are they done? Primarily to avoid being found “negligent in a malpractice court.”

What is the cost of these additional tests?Hence, the real costs of malpractice avoidance? How many lawsuits are initiated by people(or their lawyers) seeking “easy money”? Often, these are “settled” just to avoid the high costs of court procedures plus the emotional and time costs, but no malpractice has been done! What are the “costs” of these “frivolous lawsuits?” How much time and energy have you spent trying to “fight” a traffic ticket? What were the costs?

But just the experience of being “sued for malpractice” will push the health-care provider to practice more defensive medicine. At what cost to the health-care system? Surely more than 2 percent.