Study Shows Association between Malpractice Fears and Test Ordering

Both patients and doctors have serious concerns about medical malpractice, but it’s possible that the existing medical malpractice system causes physicians to order unnecessary tests. In the long run, these unneeded tests are not good for the patient, either, which is why a new study decided to tackle the issue of whether there was a connection between a doctor’s malpractice fear and his or her likelihood to order tests. Medical malpractice involves cases of medical negligence such as failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, improper treatment, surgical errors, unnecessary surgery, medication errors, or misdiagnosis.

The study, led by researcher Emily Carrier, explored physician responses to a 2008 survey about malpractice concerns to the test ordering behavior of those same doctors. The project utilized Medicare claims data to measure test ordering behavior. The study found an association between high fears about medical malpractice and ordering of tests. For physicians who were least concerned about medical malpractice suits, fewer than 18% ordered x-ray tests for those patients. For physicians categorized as most concerned about medical malpractice, tests were ordered for nearly 30% of patients. Similar test ordering patterns were identified when patients presented with headaches, as those doctors most concerned about malpractice ordered CT scans or MRIs at double the rate of less-concerned colleagues.

The study did not find a connection between patient comments about chest pain and the types of tests ordered in that realm. Ultimately, although tests can be helpful in providing doctors with details about what to rule out and what to consider as a possible diagnosis, ordering tests out of fear can be time-consuming and expensive for patients. Failing to properly diagnose may even lead to serious medical conditions or problems down the road. If you or someone you know has been a victim of medical malpractice, you need to rely on the insight of an experienced Illinois medical malpractice attorney.

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