Higher spending on defensive medicine means fewer lawsuits: 5 key notes

Written by Laura Dyrda | March 30, 2016 | Print  |

A new study reported in the Daily Star Albany suggests physicians who practice defensive medicine — and thereby spending more per patient — are sued less often.

The study examined 4,300 malpractice claims and found as hospitals increased spending per year on physicians, the malpractice rate dropped. Here are five key notes:


1. Among internal medicine physicians, the bottom 20 percent of hospital spending faced 1.5 percent probability of malpractice as compared with 0.3 percent in the top sending quartile. The bottom spending was around $19,000 per hospitalization and the top was around $39,000 per admission.


2. The study also focused on obstetricians and found those who were more likely to perform caesarean deliveries one year were also more likely to have lower malpractice claims in the next.


3. In a separate study, researchers examined seven specialties and found general surgery and obstetrics and gynecology had the greatest risk of malpractice — at 2.3 percent and 1.9 percent malpractice claims rates — and both were in the lowest fifth of spending. The specialties in the highest fifth of spending reported malpractice rates at 0.1 percent to 0.4 percent.


4. A 2014 Cleveland Clinic study published in JAMA Internal Medicine and reported in Medical Economics shows 28 percent of 4,200-plus orders physicians reported were at least partially defensive and 2.9 percent were completely defensive.


5. The national cost related to defensive medicine is estimated at $46 billion through measuring indirect costs.


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