A reader disagrees with the results of a study on the links between fears of malpractice and defensive medicine practices.
I disagree with the conclusions reached in “Study: Weak Link Between Malpractice Fears And Defensive Medicine” (Medical Economics, November 25, 2014.)
They are misleading because the study did not take into account that doctors have conditioned themselves to practice defensive medicine for at least the past two decades and the result is that for many of them defensive medicine has become so habitual that many consider it good medicine.
Unfortunately, this bad habit will take a long time to break regardless of the type and number of malpractice reforms put into place.
Moreover, the time span of the study (1997-2011) is much too short to draw any valid conclusions from it. And it did not mention whether the magnetic resonance imaging and computerized tomography scans that were not done in the emergency department were performed later as outpatients by their primary care doctors or whether the intensity (and cost) of the visits were lessened because the patients were referred to specialists or to their primary care physicians to complete their evaluations.
Much more study needs to be done before it can be said that malpractice reform has not been as effective as expected.
Clearly, malpractice continues to be the “X Factor” that drives the cost of health care.
Edward Volpintesta, MD