Study: More costly care linked with fewer malpractice claims

A recent study in The BMJ shows higher spending by physicians is linked to a reduced risk of malpractice.

Though it is generally agreed upon that physicians practice defensive medicine to guard themselves from malpractice claims, no evidence exists proving increased spending actually can reduce malpractice claims. The findings, though they do not indicate if spending was defensively motivated, suggest increased spending does reduce malpractice liability.

Researchers used admissions data from acute care hospitals in Florida from 2000 to 2009. They looked at data for nearly 25,000 physicians and more than 4,300 malpractice claims. In the analysis, they found an overall malpractice rate of 2.8 percent per physician year, though it varied by specialty.

Across all specialties, greater average spending by physicians was associated with reduced malpractice liability.

"If higher spending is motivated by concerns about malpractice but is associated with fewer errors and therefore lower malpractice claims, then this spending would be considered defensively motivated but may not be wasteful because errors are lower," the authors wrote. "If, in contrast, greater resource use is not associated with fewer errors and adds no other clinical benefit, then this additional spending could be considered wasteful, whether defensively motivated or not."

They conclude that more evidence on rates of errors associated with greater spending is needed.

 

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