Defensive Medicine and Your Wallet

If you’ve never heard the term “Defensive Medicine” before, listen up!  Defensive medicine is a major factor contributing to America’s health care crisis.

What is “defensive medicine”? In 1994 the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment gave this definition: (Yes, this has been going on for 20 years now!!)

“Defensive medicine occurs when doctors order tests, procedures, or visits, or avoid high-risk patients or procedures, primarily (but not necessarily or solely) to reduce their exposure to malpractice liability. When physicians do extra tests or procedures primarily to reduce malpractice liability, they are practicing positive defensive medicine. When they avoid certain patients or procedures, they are practicing negative defensive medicine.”

In other words, Doctors will often order unnecessary tests and treatments so they they can protect themselves in case you (or someone else) want to sue them one day.  Ordering more tests or treatments definitely increases medical costs (and your medical bills), but does not necessarily improve patient’s outcomes.  In fact, unnecessary tests and treatments can lead to a wrong diagnosis, adverse events, and even death. Here is a short clip from The Qure’s “Documercial” that gives a brief visual description of Defensive Medicine: (watch full video here)

So what can you or any patient do about “defending” your health against “defensive medicine?”  There is a solution: EVIDENCE.

There is “evidence” out there that can prove if a doctor is ordering an “unnecessary” test or treatment. You can use that evidence, with your doctor, to determine if the test/treatment is really necessary or not. Not only will this evidence help you get better care, but the same evidence will protect your doctor against future lawsuits given you are making an informed decision based on facts.

How do we get this evidence? First off, you need to share this blog and message about how using evidence can minimize the chances that a doctor will order an unnecessary test or treatment to stay out of court, and/or demand that your doctor provide you with this evidence (say, “Show me the Evidence!”)  We also need to vote for candidates (congress, senate, etc) that believe in public access to health care evidence and are willing to pass laws that make it easier for patients and doctors to use this data for any and all health care decisions..

Check out our conversation with congressional candidate Matt Miller as he vows to bring evidence to Washington.


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