A survey by Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers has found that 91% of physicians believe concerns over malpractice lawsuits result in “defensive medicine,” ordering more tests and procedures than necessary as a protective measure. The study, which questioned 2,416 physicians, is published in the June 28 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

A majority of physicians, 90.7%, also believe that better protections against unwarranted malpractice suits are needed in order to decrease the ordering of unnecessary medical tests.

“About $60 billion is spent annually on defensive medicine and many physicians feel they are vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits even when they practice competently within the standard of care,” said Tara Bishop, MD, Associate, General Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and co-author of the study. “The study shows that an overwhelming majority of physicians support tort reform to decrease malpractice lawsuits and that unnecessary testing, a contributor to rising health care costs, will not decrease without it”

Dr. Bishop, Salomeh Keyhani, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Health Evidence and Policy, and Alex Federman, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, General Internal Medicine, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, conducted the national survey of physicians from a variety of practice and specialty backgrounds from June 25, 2009 to October 31, 2009.

Physicians were asked to rate their level of agreement to two statements: “Doctors order more tests and procedures than patients need to protect themselves against malpractice suits” and “Unnecessary use of diagnostic tests will not decrease without protections for physicians against unwarranted malpractice suits.” Response options were on a five-point scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” There were no statistically significant differences between sex, geographic location, specialty category, or type of practice.

Source: The Mount Sinai Medical Center