Malpractice fears are the No. 1 cause of overtreatment, physicians say

Physicians overall feel overtreatment is common in healthcare, according to a study in PLOS One.

For the study, researchers surveyed 2,106 physicians regarding topics related to overtreatment and unnecessary healthcare.

The study found physicians believe a median of 20.6 percent of healthcare was unnecessary. This includes 22 percent of prescription medications, 24.9 percent of tests and 11.1 percent of procedures.

Physicians also weighed in on why they believe overtreatment occurs. Researchers said "fear of malpractice" (84.7 percent), "patient pressure/request" (59 percent) and "difficulty accessing medical records" (38.2 percent) were among the top reasons cited by respondents.

As far as potential solutions to overtreatment, more than half of respondents (55.2 percent) cited "training residents on appropriateness criteria," according to the study. Fifty-two percent of respondents cited "easy access to outside health records," while a similar number (51.5 percent) cited "more practice guidelines."

Additionally, the study found nearly 71 percent of respondents said they believe unnecessary procedures are more likely when physicians profit from them. Most respondents also said they believe healthcare utilization and costs could be decreased by placing less of a focus on fee-for-service physician compensation.

"From the physician perspective, overtreatment is common. Efforts to address the problem should consider the causes and solutions offered by physicians," the study authors concluded.


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