According to a recent observational study by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the practice of "defensive medicine", spending more time, money, or resources on patients, appears to correlate to lower incidents of malpractice lawsuits. The study raises other questions in an era when physicians are under more pressure to lower healthcare costs.
ScienceDaily.com reports that the study of Florida admissions and physician malpractice claims in Florida seems to correlate with a widely-held belief of physicians worldwide that doing more for patients reduces liability risk.
The study suggests that there may be a patient-physician relationship link, but the authors have acknowledged the problematic nature of the financial implications of the study. According to one of the study authors, Seth Seabury:
"One of the reasons we are moving away from the fee-for-service model is to remove the incentives of physicians to spend more. But if spending continues to shield physicians from liability risk then that incentive will still be there."
ScienceDaily notes that there are unanswered questions that merit further study, including motives in higher spending, liability avoidance, and the scope of the study itself. Lead author Anupam Jena said "We need reforms that disentangle malpractice risk from spending, so that physicians who practice safe and effective medicine don't feel the need to spend more for defensive purposes."
The full article may be viewed using the links below.