Surgeons Order Imaging Tests for Defensive Purposes
March 4, 2011
For many years now, some physicians have ordered specific diagnostic procedures that are of little or no benefit to a patient, largely to protect themselves from a lawsuit. Until now, however, efforts to actually measure defensive medicine practices have been limited primarily to surveys sent to physicians. In a new study from the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), however, researchers look at the actual practice decisions of physicians regarding defensive imaging.
- The study found that 19 percent of the imaging tests ordered were for defensive purposes.
- Defensive imaging was responsible for $113,369 of $325,309 (34.8 percent) of total imaging charges for this patient cohort, based on Medicare dollars.
- The overall cost of these tests was 35 percent of all imaging ordered because the most common test was an MRI, an imaging test which costs more than a regular X-ray.
Researchers found that surgeons were more likely to practice defensively if they had been in practice for more than 15 years, says the AAOS.
Source: "Healthcare Spending: Study Shows High Imaging Costs for Defensive Purposes," American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, February 16, 2011.
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