The Hidden Costs of Healthcare

We’ve all seen news reports of escalating healthcare costs and likely felt the implications of those spiraling expenses. Employers are shifting more costs to employees.  Many smaller companies are scaling back health coverage or dropping benefits entirely.

But there is a hidden cost of healthcare that no one wants to talk about and it’s one you’re going to start hearing more about: defensive medicine.

In healthcare, there can be “side effects” of medical procedures or prescription drugs. And, there is a rather significant “side effect” from the failure to do something about nuisance lawsuits filed against physicians. That side effect is called “defensive medicine.”

So we are clear, when physicians practice “defensive medicine,” they usually order unnecessary tests or procedures just in case they get sued.  According to a 2010 survey of physicians by Gallup for Alpharetta-based Jackson Healthcare, one of every four dollars spent in health care goes to defensive medicine.

The practice of defensive medicine is incredibly widespread and pervasive. Nearly every physician surveyed by Gallup indicated that he or she had ordered unnecessary tests or procedures, admitted patients to hospitals or other costly settings or prescribed unneeded prescription medications in the last year.

Defensive medicine is not only inconvenient as we are herded from one unnecessary test to the next, it is also very costly. And who picks up the tab for defensive medicine?  We all do.  

How many times have we been given an unnecessary x-ray or CT scan for a routine illness or accident? A lot. How many times have we been referred to a “specialist” for “further evaluation?” Too many.

But rarely do we as patients ever question it.  Well, to be candid, the physicians who provide care and treat our illness or disease do it over and over again to protect themselves from lawsuits.  More specifically, physicians do their best to avoid lawsuits by subjecting all of us — their patients — to excessive and unnecessary tests and procedures.

States, including Georgia, have been trying to address civil justice reform for decades. Georgia adopted a comprehensive tort reform package in 2005 only to see the focal point – caps on pain and suffering – recently thrown out by the Georgia Supreme Court. Other provisions, have withstood court challenge including emergency room protections for physicians who treat patients.

But the only way to truly solve defensive medicine may be to create a “safe harbor” or a specialized health court for physicians and hospitals that embrace best clinical practices as determined by their peers and established by national specialty medical societies. When doctors are protected from frivolous lawsuits, they will stop ordering unnecessary tests, exams, drugs and procedures. In turn, patients, doctors, hospitals, providers and taxpayers will save billions of dollars in a healthcare system that never seems to stop escalating in cost.

5 comments Add your comment

Connecticutdoc

May 30th, 2011
2:00 pm

Physicians order unnecesary tests and practice defensive medicine because of disparate testimony provided by individual experts for hire on their view of what constitutes the standard of care in a given case. Health courts will gradually restore physician confidence by utilizing neutral panels of experts which will provide consistency in testomy. This could save billions annually in unnecessary tests, procedures, referrals to specialists and admissions to the hospital.
Health courts will also speed up the case review process at a much lower cost per case, allowing more cases to be heard with more injured victims being compensated. This will create more accountability and should reduce medical errors. Fewer injured victims will be turned away from the process as they are now by attorneys who are looking for the bigger money cases.
At present only 45% of the malpractice insurance dollar finds its way to injured victims. This number should dramatically improve with health courts.
With utilization of Health courts, total compensation dollars going to injured victims may go up, but these additional costs could be made up for by a system which is much more efficient and the tremendous savings with reduction in defensive medicine.

[...] Jackson Healthcare, one of every four dollars spent in health care goes to defensive medicine. The Hidden Costs of Healthcare | HealthFlock 90% of physicians when POLLED said: f 1,231 physicians…(90%) Ninety percent of physicians [...]

[...] Healthcare, one of every four dollars spent in health care goes to defensive medicine." The Hidden Costs of Healthcare | HealthFlock NOTE: [$2.5 trillion in 2010 total health care expenditures or $600 billion equals " one of [...]

Andrew

October 27th, 2012
2:03 am

说:Mich: OMG !!!! Now that is so scarey. I have not heard any of that. Not that I dont bvielee it, I just have not heard that. We need to get this out to the public. Has no one asked, Who wrote this bill? WOW we are like puppets.