Defensive Medicine is the MO in the ER

Fierce Healthcare today picked up on a very important study from The American College of Emergency Physicians.

“A patient’s best interests may not be motivating emergency room doctors to order tests as much as self-protection from medical liability lawsuits, a new survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians finds. More than 50 percent of roughly 1,800 ER doctors said the main reason they order the number of tests they do is fear of being sued.

Until such fear is alleviated, overtesting is likely to continue to cost big bucks to patients, as well as the overall healthcare industry. Almost 49 percent of ERs docs said diagnostic testing accounts for the biggest expense on a patient’s ER bill.

Moreover, such defensive medicine can cost anywhere from $60 billion to $151 billion a year, according to ACEP President Sandra Schneider. “That dwarfs total expenditures on emergency care, which at $47.3 billion in 2008 represented just 2 percent of all healthcare spending,” she said in a statement.

In order for hospitals to trim expenses, they must address medical liability issues, as 44 percent of ER docs consider fear of lawsuits the biggest challenge to cutting ER costs.

While defensive test ordering is boosting costs, it also–more alarmingly–is endangering patients’ health. Recent studies have shown that the use of CT exams in emergency departments has significantly increased, along with the exposure to high-dose ionizing radiation.”

While all physicians are acutely aware of the litigious environment they deal with, this survey should help educate those outside the industry about the critical need for tort reform. As long as physicians face dire consequences from mistakes, despite following best-practices and using good judgement, society will bear an unusually high monetary and health cost for the resulting defensive medicine.

Read the full story from Fierce Healthcare HERE.

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