Physicians’ Malpractice Concern Impacts Patient Treatment

Physicians are under a lot of pressure to get their Medicare patient’s diagnosis correct.

This does not come easily, for they must rule out many other ailments to make sure they won’t be liable for an error or omission in their diagnosis or treatment of the patient.

In the past decade, doctors have exhibited an overwhelming amount of malpractice concerns.

There have been significant indications of Medicare patients receiving more diagnostic tests and ER referrals when their physicians fear malpractice liability, regardless of whether the states they work in have adopted malpractice tort reforms.

A new study funded by the National Institute for Health Care Reform and facilitated by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) in the August Health Affairs, states that physicians’ risk perception — rather than their actual risk — of malpractice liability predicts the way they practice defensive medicine.

The data was compiled by analyzing office-based physicians’ concerns about malpractice liability, the tests given and emergency referrals they ordered for elderly Medicare patients with new complaints of chest pain, headache and lower-back pain. Patients across these conditions, whose physicians reported high levels of malpractice concern, received more services.

For example, in one scenario, patients who had experienced chest pain were more likely to be sent to the ER if their physician had a high level of malpractice concern.

When researchers compared physicians’ level of malpractice concern with objective state-level indicators of malpractice liability risk, such as whether a state caps economic damages, they found no consistent relationships.

However you choose to interpret the data – one thing is clear. Doctors will always be at risk for malpractice and it’s crucial that they protect themselves professionally. Whether it’s errors and omissions protecting the doctor’s judgment, diagnosis or treatment, or privacy/network security safeguarding patient information, it is coverage the doctor truly cannot survive without.

For more information on protecting your practice or medical group from liability, contact us at 201-847-9175.

About Axis Insurance Services, LLC
Axis Insurance Services, LLC is a nationwide professional liability brokerage located in Franklin Lakes, NJ. Our highly-qualified insurance specialists provide nationwide businesses with customized professional liability insurance coverage. We specialize in Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O), Directors and Officers liability (D&O), Employment Practices (EPLI), Commercial Crime, Privacy/Network Security and Fiduciary products for today’s professional services firms, including commercial real estate agents and brokers, property managers, insurance agents, medical groups, third party administrators, accountants and many other professionals.

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Data taken from the Health Affairs article, titled “High Physician Concern About Malpractice Risk Predicts More Aggressive Diagnostic Testing in Office-Based Practice, “ is based on a national sample of elderly Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries linked to HSC’s 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey.

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