ATLANTA, GA - Physicians estimate the
cost of defensive medicine to be between 26 and 34
percent of total annual healthcare costs. At an estimated
$2.5 trillion in annual spending, this means $650-850 billion is
spent each year on medical orders intended to avoid lawsuits rather
than treat patients.
A new published report by Jackson Healthcare, A Costly
Defense: Physicians Sound Off on the High Price of Defensive
Medicine, summarizes physician opinions on defensive medicine
collected between October 2009 and May 2011. The economic and
non-economic impacts of defensive medicine may be significantly
greater than previously estimated.
According to the publication, no physician respondents in
the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and Sweden reported
practicing defensive medicine. Likewise, physicians working
under contract with the federal government reported practicing
significantly less defensive medicine than their private sector
"Through our ongoing research, it's become apparent that
U.S. physicians are the only physicians in the world personally
financially liable for their medical decisions," said Richard L.
Jackson, chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare. "Physicians
throughout the world enjoy protections and a patient compensation
system that free them to focus on what's best for their patients.
U.S. physicians' medical decisions are influenced by an
ever-present threat of litigation."
The fear of being sued drives physicians to order tests
and treatments as added insurance, which inflates healthcare
Some argue that were U.S. physicians protected from
personal financial liability, they would continue to order
medically unnecessary tests because they profit from
Jackson said his organization's research found all the
tests and treatments from which physicians could profit to account
for only 6.3 percent of their total compensation," said Jackson.
"So the belief that physicians order tests and treatments for
profit appears to be a myth."
In addition to driving up the costs of healthcare,
physicians reported that defensive medicine limits access to
certain patients, drives over- and under-treatment, delays adoption
of medical innovations and negatively impacts the supply and
satisfaction of physicians.
The traditional approach to reducing defensive medicine
has been tort reform in the form of damage caps. Jackson
believes it is not a sustainable solution, and it addresses the tip
of a very large iceberg of costs.
Jackson's full report can be downloaded here.