Healthcare News & Insights

More than 1 in 4 health care dollars spent on defensive medicine

Coders may need to add a “CYA” category to account for procedures doctors order solely to prevent frivolous lawsuits — if you believe a recent survey of physicians.

According to a Jackson Healthcare poll of physicians conducted by Gallup, 73% of doctors said they had practiced defensive medicine in the past year by ordering tests or procedures that could protect them from frivolous malpractice lawsuits.

The respondents indicated those extraneous procedures accounted for 26% of total health care spending.

The poll was co-sponsored by the Center for Health Transformation.

Of course, one person’s “frivolous” procedure is another’s way of investigating all possible diagnoses. And while unneeded procedures may give physicians an apparent safety net, all procedures and tests carry some risk to the patient. A negative outcome from a less-than-necessary test could actually open the door to a malpractice lawsuit.

Are you seeing widespread defensive medicine in your organization? If you are — do you think it’s understandable and ethical? Share your experiences in the comments.

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