Pricey doctors don’t get sued as much

According to the Washington Post, The British Medical Journal has published a new study which indicates a possible increase in medical malpractice lawsuits could be be coming as an unintended consequence of the heal reform.

According to the study, doctors who spent the most heal-care resources on hospitalized patients were the least likely out if a sample of 24,000 physicians to be sued. Researchers tracked physicians over a nine-year period and across six specialities.

The researchers are now curious as to what is causing the physicians to be sued less and less. Those who participated in the study are now asking whether the data demonstrates that higher spending caused the number of lawsuits to shrink or whether higher spending resulted in fewer medical errors.

“We need to figure out whether it’s the case that spending more by physicians reduces liability,” said Anupam Jena, associate professor of health-care policy as Harvard Medical School and leader of the study. “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 health care.”

In the United States, defensive medicine – the practice of taking measures to avoid liability, preventing lawsuits over diseases – has been estimated to cost the country over $60 billion per year. Defensive medicine can include procedures like unnecessary image scans and blood work, going so far as encouraging unnecessary hospital admission to avoid lawsuits.

The question asked by the study: does practicing defensive medicine reduce a doctor’s likelihood to be sued?

Research suggest that yes, it does.

This is why doctors who used the most medical resources per patient were least likely to be sued. They take extra precaution. Patients are spending as much as $40,000 per hospital admission on this treatment, and the study points out that each of these cases has a 0.3 percent likelihood of getting sued.

The study is, however, limited. Each of its 24,000 doctors works in Florida, it couldn’t account for the differences in the severity of illness between patients, and at best it was able to find correlations between the level of spending versus the likelihood of lawsuits.

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