According to a survey conducted by Brenda Sirovich and her colleagues from the Veteran’s Administration Outcomes Group in Vermont and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire, Forty-two percent of US physicians feel that their patients are getting too much medical care. This finding may suggest that fears of malpractice suits are to blame.
A total of twenty-eight percent of physicians surveyed said they were treating their patients too aggressively, while forty-five percent said one in every 10 patients had issues that could have been dealt with over the telephone, by email, or by a nurse. Fifty-two percent said they believe their patients were receiving just the right amount of care and six percent said their patients were receiving too little. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Our findings show that many primary care physicians believe that there is substantial unnecessary care that could be reduced, particularly by increasing time with patients, reforming the malpractice system, and reducing financial incentives to do more, “ it said.
Seventy-six percent of survey respondents said that concerns about possible malpractice suits were the main reason why they gave patients more aggressive treatment. “Physicians believe they are paid to do more and exposed to legal punishment if they do less,” said the article. The article also stated, “The extent to which the fear of malpractice leads to more aggressive practice (so-called defensive medicine) has been hotly debated; based on our findings, we believe it is not a small effect.”
Forty-two percent of doctors felt they did not have enough time to spend with their patients. Only three percent of physicians said that their own style of practice was influenced by financial considerations, thirty-nine percent “believed that other primary care physicians would order fewer diagnostic tests if such tests did notgenerate extra revenue, said the study. “Almost two-thirds (62 percent) said that medical subspecialists would cut back on testing in the absence of a financial incentive.”
The results are based on a mail survey that was filled out by 627 physicians in the United States. Seventy-two percent of the physicians included in the initial mailing replied, which the authors called “exceptional for a survey of American physicians.”