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Study finds "defensive medicine" lowers liability risk

When North Carolina patients are not given the appropriate tests, a correct diagnosis of their medical condition could be delayed. While appropriate testing can improve patient outcomes, some doctors use testing as a defensive measure against medical malpractice claims. Researchers from Harvard Medical School recently examined 'defensive medicine" and its relationship to medical malpractice claims.

Not to be confused with preventative medicine, defensive medicine is a term that refers to the practice of decreasing a doctor's risk of being sued for medical malpractice. By ordering extra tests and treatments, a doctor who is practicing defensive medicine is trying to mitigate the legal risks, not improve the health of patients. According to the Harvard researchers, doctors who practice defensive medicine have a lower risk of being sued for malpractice than doctors who use tests more conservatively.

Researchers looked at data from 19 million hospital admissions in Florida between 2000 and 2009 along with 24,000 medical malpractice claims against doctors in seven different specialties. The lead researcher on the study, who is a health economist, said that relying on physicians to eliminate wasteful spending is very difficult when cutting costs increases doctors' malpractice risk.

Patients who have suffered because of a doctor's failure to diagnose their medical condition may have a case for filing a medical malpractice claim. An attorney may be able to help an injured patient to examine their medical records in order to determine whether the appropriate tests were provided at the right time. Doctors who do not follow the accepted standard of care for their field of medicine may in some cases be held financially responsible if a patient is harmed as a result.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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