BusinessMedical Ethics

Medical Malpractice Fear Drives Doctors to Order Too Many Tests MD Survey Shows

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medical malpractice fear order more testsMedical Malpractice Fear drives many doctors to order too many tests. I am not just saying that … it is a finding from a 2011 survey of the Physicians themselves! 627 randomly selected Primary Care Doctors were surveyed in 2009 producing some fascinating findings. This got a lot of press … here are the highlights.

42% of the 627 respondents believed the patients in their own practice were getting too much care. Just 6% of doctors believed their patients were getting too little care. (The rest thought the level of care was just right.)

What did the doctors blame the excessive care on?


  • 28% of the doctors thought they themselves were practicing more aggressively than they would prefer to
  • 76% of doctors blamed medical malpractice worries for their over-aggressive care
  • 83% of physicians thought they could easily be sued for failure to order a test that was indicated
  • Only 21% thought they could be sued for ordering a test that wasn’t indicated


40% of doctors surveyed said inadequate time to spend with patients led them to order tests or refer patients to specialists rather than use other, less-aggressive ways of addressing patients’ issues.

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES – only for the “other guy”

Financial incentives were also cited, but “most thought they affected other physicians,” the study found. Look at these response rates below and the term “finger pointing” comes to mind. 

  • Only 3% said financial considerations influenced their own care decisions
  • While 39% said they affected other primary-care doctors
  • And 62% thought they affected sub-specialist physicians

Here’s the study abstract

And as you might expect, this got a lot of Press Coverage and ** SPIN **

Wall Street Journal




PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT – do your  patients get too much or too little care – or is your practice “just right”?

If you say too much … why is that in your case (medical malpractice fear)?

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