In our last post, we highlighted the potential for better patient care if safe harbor provisions were followed and allowed to be incorporated into useful legislation. One of the notions behind safe harbors was that doctors commonly ordered tests that were not necessary or were created out of fear of future medical malpractice lawsuits.
A recent medicalnewstoday.com report supported this notion. According to researchers who surveyed emergency room physicians, a majority of doctors in this area do indeed order unnecessary tests. One physician interviewed explained that doctors feel as if they have a tremendous pressure not to be wrong when making diagnoses; thus leading to non-medical reasons for diagnostic tests.
In fact, more than 80 percent of doctors surveyed believe that their departments require too many tests, and nearly all doctors indicated that “medically unnecessary” radiology tests ordered would not be performed but for department regulations. Moreover, the tests are not based on doctors not being able to discover the cause of an ailment. Rather, it is the fear of medical malpractice suits that drives the culture of over-testing.
Nevertheless, doctors have a duty to use reasonable care when caring for patients, which means that they must act as a physician with similar experience and training would act in such a situation. If a deviation from this standard results in a patient being harmed, the physician can be held liable.
Indeed, we must hold problematic doctors accountable for their lack of judgment or inaction, but the culture of testing simply to avoid potential lawsuits must change.