Medical malpractice liability payouts in California are capped at $250,000 for non-economic damages, yet doctors continue to spend more on patient tests to reduce their medical malpractice liability.
A study by the British Medical Journal concluded that “medical doctors who spend more time, money and resources on patient tests and procedures are generally less likely to be sued for malpractice.”
Within the medical industry, this approach is known as “defensive medicine” because physicians are ordering more tests and procedures than may be recommended by healthcare guidelines, in order to cover all bases and reduce the chances of being sued for malpractice.
Patients may view defensive medicine as a positive, since they feel the doctor is doing more diagnostic work and potentially arriving at more accurate conclusions. If a doctor is able to satisfy the patient, then there is less chance the patient will file a lawsuit against them.
On the other hand, those in the healthcare industry are not in favor of this practice. Doctors who order more tests and procedures than is recommended may be seen as contributing to the issue of rising healthcare costs.
Either way, the facts tell us that doctors do not want to face medical malpractice liability, so they are being more proactive during patient visits. Are they trading the cost of potential malpractice suits for additional services, and is it similar to the “cost of doing business”?
We shall see how defensive medicine plays out in the realm of physician care, healthcare costs, and malpractice cases.