Fearful Doctors May Order Too Many Tests

Fearful Doctors May Order Too Many Tests

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(Reuters Health) – Doctors who are the most worried about malpractice suits are more likely than less fearful colleagues to order extra diagnostic tests and refer patients to emergency rooms, even if the real threat of a lawsuit is low, according to a new U.S. study.

The practice of so-called defensive medicine “is one of those things that everyone knows goes on, but doesn’t know how to control,” said Michelle Mello, senior author of the new analysis and a professor of law and public health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

The problem is a driver of excessive healthcare costs, but tackling it effectively requires a better understanding of what drives defensive medicine, Mello and her colleagues write in the journal Health Affairs.

In earlier research, Mello found that medical liability and defensive medicine accounted for approximately $55.6 billion or 2.4 percent of U.S. healthcare spending in 2008.

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