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Extra testing lowers medical malpractice claims

According to a new study, doctors who routinely order extra tests and procedures for patients, a practice known as defensive medicine, are subjected to fewer medical malpractice lawsuits. However, the method has not been proven to improve health outcomes for patients in New Mexico and nationwide.

The authors of the study, which was conducted by Harvard, Stanford and the University of Southern California, said that many doctors practice defensive medicine to leave a paper trail proving they did everything they could for a patient in case they are sued. The method is expensive. Unnecessary patient testing costs the U.S. approximately $50 billion annually, according to one estimate. In comparison, a 2013 study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that medical malpractice lawsuits cost only $1.4 billion each year.

For the recent study, researchers examined almost 18.5 million hospital admissions in Florida between 2000 and 2009 and compared them with the malpractice histories of the 24,637 doctors who treated the patients while they were hospitalized. They found that 4,342 medical malpractice claims were filed during the review period. The doctors who spent the most on extra testing had a 0.3 percent chance of being sued, but doctors who were in the bottom 20 percent of hospital expenditures faced a 1.4 percent chance of being sued. The authors of the study said extra testing appears to reduce lawsuits. However, because defensive medicine has no proven benefit to patients, they question whether its massive cost is justified.

A patient who has been the victim of a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis may want to discuss the situation with a lawyer. After a review of the patient's medical records and other evidence, the attorney may find it advisable to file a physician malpractice lawsuit against the negligent practitioner seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages that the patient has sustained.

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