Medical students take an oath when they become licensed physicians to dedicate themselves to the good of their patients, being careful to always avoid doing any harm. While it is an oath that doctors are bound by law to follow, increasing numbers of professionals in the medical community have veered from putting the interests of their patients first to giving their own interests top priority. In an effort to avoid medical errors and medical malpractice claims, doctors are more frequently engaging in defensive medicine tactics that are designed to protect them from legal liability in the event anything goes wrong with the patient. Not only does this practice increase overall healthcare costs, but it can also endanger patients and compromise the overall quality of care they receive.
What is Defensive Medicine?
Defensive medicine is the practice of ordering tests and procedures not because the patient requires them, but because it will help to protect the doctor against legal liability if a medical mistake or error is made. According to a report on increases in defensive medicine from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it does damage in three ways:
- It poses dangers to the patient by exposing them unnecessary to the potentially harmful side effects of unneeded testing, subjects them to potentially risky procedures, and increases their likelihood of infectious disease by admitting them for needless hospital stays.
- It betrays the trust that should exist in a doctor/patient relationship, and causes physicians to avoid patients with potentially complicated conditions or symptoms.
- It increases overall healthcare costs for the patients, by subjecting them to expensive diagnostic testing, experimental treatments, and hospital stays.
Medical Errors and Mistakes: The Underlying Factor in Defensive Medicine
Studies conducted by the NIH indicate that more than half of private sector physicians practice defensive medicine today, thereby exposing their patients to unnecessary health risks and exorbitant medical costs, simply to protect themselves in the event an error in diagnosis or treatment is made. The underlying problem remains the high incidence of patient injuries caused by doctor and hospital errors. In 2015, Senate hearings on the quality of healthcare reported that medical errors are an increasingly alarming problem in the United States and kill roughly 1,000 people each day, making them the third leading cause of death. While common types of medical mistakes include healthcare associated infections, medication errors, and surgical mistakes, it is physician liability for missed and incorrect diagnosis that defensive medicine hopes to prevent. According to the NIH, a better method may include the following:
- Spending more time tracking the progress of individual patients;
- Communicating more effectively between physicians and specialists;
- Giving greater consideration to patient medical histories; and
- Being more alert to the symptoms patients present during doctor visits.
Let Us Assist You Today
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error or mistake, contact our experienced Florida medical malpractice attorneys. At Hogan Frick, we can advise you on how to hold negligent medical providers accountable for their actions, while assisting you in getting the compensation you deserve for the damages you have suffered. With offices in Orlando, Gainesville, Ocala, Kissimmee, and Lakeland, we can help; call or contact us online today for a free review of your case.