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Doctor negligence associated with lower spending on patients

Medical malpractice affects more than just the patient who must suffer the immediate trauma and ramifications. In many cases, family members must take on an additional burden, follow-up medical care can be a drain on finances and the recovery process can be long and difficult. Despite advances in technology, it often seems as though medical malpractice rates remain stubbornly fixed, unwilling to budge or decrease. Now, a study from an out-of-state university might have found a key factor for reducing overall rates of negligence and medical malpractice.

According to the study, New Jersey patients who feel as though their physicians do not spend adequate time or testing on them might be more susceptible to suffering from an instance of medical malpractice. In what researchers coined defensive medicine, doctors who devote more time, energy and, yes, money on necessary procedures and tests face far fewer accusations of medical malpractice. Although the idea of higher spending on health care being in some way related to better results has long been acknowledged, it has not been backed by a scientific study until now.

Unfortunately, health care reform typically focuses on reducing spending rather than increasing it. Much of that burden is placed with physicians who interact directly with patients rather than encouraging other areas of health care to re-examine and address possible wasteful spending. Since family doctors are often the first line of diagnostic defense for patients suffering from serious diseases or illnesses, the drive to slash spending is likely doing far more harm than good.

The researchers did point to various limitations in the study, including that some participating physicians might not have been accurate when recording spending per patient, but otherwise believe that the results of the study have serious implications. As doctors are encouraged to spend less and less, many patients in New Jersey might not undergo the necessary tests, procedures and treatments. This type of negligence is often associated with negative outcomes that cause serious and permanent harm to patients, which is typically addressed through subsequent medical malpractice lawsuits against the attending physician.

Source: news.usc.edu, "Doctors who spend more on patients face lower malpractice claim risk", Emily Gersema, Nov. 4, 2015

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Alan D. Bell
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