Ask physicians if our messed up malpractice system causes them to practice “defensive medicine,” and most will probably say yes – hard not to be paranoid with so many lawsuits affecting so many physicians. Some experts even contend that major reforms of our malpractice system could go a long way towards controlling spiraling healthcare costs. On the other hand, if you ask physicians whether they ever order unnecessary tests for their patients, I expect most would say “no;” after all, that would be unprofessional.
In other words, it’s hard to get a handle on the true costs of defensive medicine.
But recently, a group of researchers led by Emily Carrier came up with a clever way of getting closer to such an estimate. They connected two pieces of previously unconnected data: physicians’ survey responses from 2008 in which they expressed how concerned they were about malpractice, and the same physicians’ test ordering behavior over the same period of time. That latter bit of data comes from Medicare, which gives researchers access to what is called “claims data” – records of the bills Medicare receives from physicians and hospitals… (Read more and view comments at Forbes)